Jessica Chastain, Will Smith, Jane Campion Win At 94th Oscars 2022

Jessica Chastain, Will Smith, and Jane Campion are among those who won at the 94th annual Academy Awards 2022 held at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday, March 27th. The ceremony, which used to usually be held in February-end or March-beginning, was delayed due to the Covid pandemic.

For the past three years, the Oscars did not have any host. However, this year’s Oscars was hosted by comedians Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer and actress Regina Hall. Introduced by Venus and Serena Williams, Beyoncé opened the ceremony performing her nominated song “Be Alive” in a lavish production in Compton where the Williams sisters grew up.

The Apple TV+ drama, ‘CODA’ about a deaf family has won the Academy Award for best picture, the first time a streaming service has won Hollywood’s top prize, marking the first time that Hollywood’s top award has gone to a streaming service. Sian Heder’s deaf family drama found a backer in Apple TV+, which scored its first best picture Oscar less than three years after the streaming service was launched.

“Thank you to the Academy for letting our ‘CODA’ make history tonight,” producer Philippe Rousselet said when accepting the best picture honor. Fellow producer Patrick Wachsberger also thanked Oscar voters for “recognizing a movie of love and family.”

Jessica Chastain won the Academy Award for best actress for her role in “The Eyes Of Tammy Faye.” The award was presented by Anthony Hopkins, who was notably absent at last year’s ceremony to collect his best actor Oscar. Jane Campion, won the Oscar for best director for The Power of the Dog.

Chastain’s third nomination is the charm, winning best actress for playing televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” “We’re faced with discriminatory legislation, there is violence and hate crime perpetrated on civilians,” says Chastain, but adds we can find inspiration in Bakker’s mindset and her “radical acts of love.”

Will Smith won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the father who raised tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, in “King Richard.” He had been nominated twice before, first for “Ali” in 2001 and then for the 2006 movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Smith’s win came shortly after a shocking onstage incident, as he slapped presenter Chris Rock over a joke referencing the hairstyle of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

“Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father,” a tearful Smith said in his acceptance speech after the incident with Rock. “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling me to do and be in this world. Making the film, I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do, you’ve got to be able to take abuse, you’ve got to be able to take people talking crazy about you, people disrespecting you, and you got to smile and pretend that’s OK.” He also apologized to “the Academy and all my fellow nominees” for the Rock moment. “This is a beautiful moment and I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me. It’s about shining a light. … Love will make you do crazy things.”

Following the Will Smith-Chris Rock punch drama, The Academy Awards issued a statement condemning the act. The statement read, “The Academy does not condone violence of any form. Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world (sic).”

Dune, starring Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya, led this year’s Oscar tally, picking up six of the 10 awards it was nominated for. Dune walked away with several awards at Oscars 2022 and one of them was for Best Visual Effects (VFX). Dune’s VFX is a London-based visual effects and animations company, DNEG (Double Negative), the CEO of the company is Namit Malhotra, a man of Indian origin. Dune also won the awards for best cinematography, sound, film editing and production design. Hans Zimmer won his second career Oscar for original score for Denis Villeneuve’s film.

Troy Kotsur made history as the first deaf male actor to win an Oscar. He won the best supporting honors for his role in best picture winner “CODA,” a title which stands for “child of deaf adult.” Accepting the award, Kotsur signed: “I just wanted to say this is dedicated to the deaf community, the CODA community and the disabled community. This is our moment.”

Ariana DeBose also made history with her award for best actress in a supporting role, becoming the first Afro-Latina and openly LGBTQ actor to win in the category. In her acceptance speech, she said, “To anybody who has ever questioned your identity, I promise you there is a place for us” — echoing one of the songs from her film, the musical “West Side Story.”

Disney’s “Encanto” picked up the Oscar for the best animated feature film. Hailed for its magical realism and music, the film won over a range of diverse works — including Afghan refugee documentary “Flee,” Pixar’s coming-of-age tale “Luca” set in Italy, the family comedy “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” and Disney’s own “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

Japan’s emotional epic “Drive My Car” won the Oscar for the best international feature film. Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, the film became the fifth from Japan to win the Oscar, the last being “Departures” in 2008. Other nominees included Italy’s “The Hand of God,” Denmark’s “Flee,” Bhutan’s “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” and Norway’s “The Worst Person in the World.”

The ceremony held a minute of silence for Ukraine. Among those showing gestures of support for Ukraine were Oscar-winning actress Youn Yuh-jung, nominated songwriter Diane Warren, composer Nicholas Britell and the actress Jamie Lee Curtis. They wore blue ribbons that read #WithRefugees to show support for those who have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded a month ago.

Led by Ukrainian-born actress Mila Kunis, the Oscars stood in solidarity with those under Russian attack in Ukraine. “We’d like to have a moment of silence to show our support for the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict and prejudice within their own borders,” read a card presented onscreen.

Indian American Joseph Patel & Team Win Oscar For Documentary, ‘Summer of Soul’

Indian American Joseph Monish Patel along with co-producers David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent and director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson won Best Documentary Feature Oscar for “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).”

“First Patel to ever win an Oscar” declared Joseph Monish Patel on his Instagram handle along with an image of the award after winning one at the 94th Academy Awards held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Mar.27th.

Indeed, for the Indian American who had been bullied as a youngster for the name ‘Monish’ it must have been a gratifying journey to the top!

The documentary is an exploration of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which was held at Mount Morris Park in Harlem. Running for six weeks, it drew a large attendance and performers like Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight and the Pips.

The festival was a celebration of African-American music and culture and promoted Black pride and unity. Given all this, it still drew little attention in pop culture history. The documentary tries to figure out why.

For the Indian American community centered on Bollywood and the stars who make it here, Patel may not be in the forefront of the imagination, but he has an applause worthy body of work.

He began his career as a music journalist and went on to produce and direct television and digital content for MTV News and Docs, Vice Media, The Fader, and Vevo. He is a BAFTA nominated producer as well as a winner of several critics’ awards.

The Indian American told GQ magazine, that his father was a grad student in the US, when he went back home to Gujarat to get married. While dad is from Baroda, his mother came to Anand with her family via Uganda when she was 12.

Patel was born soon after and was raised in California’s Bay area. He later to college at UC Davis and he told the magazine that it was “probably the most transformative experience I had in my life was being involved in the campus radio station. It’s there where I found my tribe.”

While the Indian American made history as a Patel, it was a heartbreaker for the Indian documentary, ‘Writing With Fire,’ directed by the filmmaker duo of Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh which was in the race for the same category.

The “Summer of Soul” team received the award by Chris Rock, who had just been slapped by Will Smith following a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. “This is such a stunning moment for me right now, but it’s not about me,” Questlove said. “It’s about marginalized people in Harlem that needed to heal from pain. Just know that in 2022, this is not just a 1969 story about marginalized people in Harlem.”

The documentary edged past “Writing With Fire,” chronicling India’s only Dalit women-run newspaper; and Riz Ahmed co-produced “Flee,” which tells the real-life story of Amin, a gay Afghan refugee, through vividly animated renderings of both his past and future with a new husband; as well as “Ascension,” by Jessica Kingdon, Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell; and “Attica” by Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry.

It was Thomas and Ghosh’s debut feature documentary about a newspaper ‘Khabar Lahariya’ started as a social experiment by an NGO. It’s India’s only rural newspaper run by Dalit women since 2002, from Chitrakoot in the Bundelkhand region.

The documentary captures ‘Khabar Lahariya’s’ switch from print to digital in recent years. It follows how the newspaper’s chief reporter Meera and her journalists break traditions, redefining what it means to be powerful by reporting India’s biggest issues and within the confines of their own homes, questioning notions of patriarchy and redefining power, investigating local police-force incompetence, listening in and standing by victims of caste and gender violence. It was the first Indian documentary made by an all-India independent production to bag an Oscar nomination in this category.

A producer, director, writer, and executive with over two decades of experience in TV, film, digital and print journalism, the Brooklyn, New York-based Patel was most recently the Head of Content at Vevo, the world’s largest music video platform. He has held similar positions at Vice Media, The Fader, and MTV News & Docs. He recently won two Clio Awards for films produced in partnership between The Fader and YouTube (2018 Gold, “Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer” and 2017 Silver “Aurora: Nothing is Eternal”).

India is in a sweet spot, courted by the Quad, China and Russia

The Quad is willing to look past India’s refusal – including in four recent UN resolutions – to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • India’s value as a democracy and capacity as the only other military power able to push back against Chinese aggression in Asia is not lost on the Quad.
  • In a surprising turn of events, even traditional rival China is making overtures to India at this time, seeking New Delhi’s assent to a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appears to have unwittingly put India at the sweet center of a diplomatic triangle in the Indo-Pacific.

As the war enters its fourth week, New Delhi has been receiving a stream of high-profile visitors from major capitals around the world.

At one end, this has included delegations from the United States, Australia and Japan, the three nations which are India’s partners in the Quad, officially known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

The Quad is willing to look past India’s refusal — including in four recent UN resolutions — to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

An informal grouping, the Quad works to deepen strategic cooperation on issues related to security, technology and the economy while implicitly countering China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.

The high profile visits are ongoing.

The foreign minister of Greece Nikos Dendias arrived on Tuesday and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is scheduled to visit in early April. But in a surprising turn of events, even traditional rival China is making overtures to India at this time, seeking New Delhi’s assent to a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Another suitor is Russia, India’s trusted arms supplier for decades, which is now also becoming a supplier of discounted crude oil to New Delhi as Moscow recoils from sanctions enforced by western consumers of its natural gas.

New Delhi is basking in its sudden limelight

On Monday, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland met India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, to reaffirm the two countries’ commitment to shared objectives in the Indo-Pacific.

There was a brief allusion to the Ukraine war but it was almost an afterthought, mentioned at the end of issues pertaining to South Asia, the Indo-Pacific and West Asia. If there was unhappiness over India’s “somewhat shaky” position on Ukraine, to which President Joe Biden alluded hours later in Washington, there was no mention of it in statements issued after the official talks.

Talks with the U.S. were preceded by meetings between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in New Delhi on Saturday and a virtual consultation with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday.

Discussions on China were at the front and center of both summits. While Modi brought up the June 2020 border clash on the Himalayan border, Kishida made references to the territorial dispute with China over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which China calls Diaoyu.

Kishida announced a $42 billion investment in India and also invited Modi to the next Quad summit in Japan later this year. Again, there was no reference to India’s stand on Ukraine except for calls to end the war.

Morrison had expressed understanding of India’s position on Ukraine, Shringla said, briefing reporters. “There was a great deal of comfort … both sides saw that conflict in Europe should not be a reason for us to divert our attention from the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

A visit by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to New Delhi is also on the cards. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will hold talks with Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi later this month, in a visit to prepare ground for the yet unannounced visit by Johnson.

China’s changing tone on India

China’s proposal for its foreign minister’s visit comes just short of two years of a bloody confrontation between Chinese and Indian soldiers in Ladakh that claimed the lives of 20 Indian troops and four Chinese soldiers in June 2020.

India has so far been non-committal about the visit but China appears to be eager, in part to secure Modi’s in-person presence at this year’s BRICS summit. The annual meeting of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will be hosted by China this year. A Russia-India-China summit may also be held on the sidelines.

China has also proposed an “India-China Civilization Dialogue” to be held in both countries and an India-China Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum.

In recent weeks, nationalistic newspaper Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, has shown a marked shift in its tone toward India. “China and India share common interests on many fronts. For instance, the West recently pointed the finger at India for reportedly considering buying Russian oil at a discounted price. But it is India’s legitimate right,” the paper said in an essay last week.

Commenting on Kishida’s visit to New Delhi, the Global Times called the Japanese prime minister a “lobbyist” who failed to “sway India on Ukraine.”

“Although Kishida pushed Modi to take a tougher line on Russia over the Ukraine issue during his first visit to India after he took office, the joint statement issued later showed that the Japanese lobbying did not meet the expectations of Washington and Canberra,” the Global Times said.

And on Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan — India’s traditional foe and a close China ally — also praised India’s “independent foreign policy.”

India’s ‘fortuitous’ geopolitics

India’s value as a democracy and capacity as the only other military power able to push back against Chinese aggression in Asia is not lost on the Quad. But a lot will depend on how well India — more nimble under Modi — articulates its position on Ukraine.

“India is today in an enviable position because of years of careful diplomacy, and fortuitous geo-politics,” Aparna Pande, a South Asia expert at the Hudson Institute, a Washington DC think tank, told CNBC.

“The US and its partners — in Europe and Asia — need India on their side in the long-term peer competition with China. They are, therefore, more understanding of India’s predicament.”

But Pande cautioned that India’s reluctance, as a democracy and as a key member of the Indo-Pacific to support the liberal international order will be remembered. Russia, says think tank

India faces a stark choice, said Bruce Bennett from the Rand Corporation, a think tank headquartered in Santa Monica, California.

“The key question is whether India will want to be known as a principled country or a nationalistic country. A principled country stands up against any violation of national boundaries, whether it is Russia invading the Ukraine or China invading parts of India,” he said.

“If India decides to ‘sit on the fence’ to maximize its national leverage and influence, I think many people around the world will lose sympathy for India’s concerns about its own territorial integrity.”

The Impact Of Economic War On Putin Led Russia How Sanctions On Russia Will Upend The Global Order

The Russian-Ukrainian war of 2022 is not just a major geopolitical event but also a geoeconomic turning point. Western sanctions are the toughest measures ever imposed against a state of Russia’s size and power.

In the space of less than three weeks, the United States and its allies have cut major Russian banks off from the global financial system; blocked the export of high-tech components in unison with Asian allies; seized the overseas assets of hundreds of wealthy oligarchs; revoked trade treaties with Moscow; banned Russian airlines from North Atlantic airspace: restricted Russian oil sales to the United States and United Kingdom; blocked all foreign investment in the Russian economy from their jurisdiction; and frozen $403 billion out of the $630 billion in foreign assets of the Central Bank of Russia.

The overall effect has been unprecedented, and a few weeks ago would have seemed unimaginable even to most experts: in all but its most vital products, the world’s eleventh-largest economy has now been decoupled from twenty-first-century globalization.

How will these historic measures play out? Economic sanctions rarely succeed at achieving their goals. Western policymakers frequently assume that failures stem from weaknesses in sanctions design.

Indeed, sanctions can be plagued by loopholes, lack of political will to implement them, or insufficient diplomatic agreement concerning enforcement. The implicit assumption is that stronger sanctions stand a better chance of succeeding.

Yet the Western economic containment of Russia is different. This is an unprecedented campaign to isolate a G-20 economy with a large hydrocarbon sector, a sophisticated military-industrial complex, and a diversified basket of commodity exports. As a result, Western sanctions face a different kind of problem.

The sanctions, in this case, could fail not because of their weakness but because of their great and unpredictable strength. Having grown accustomed to using sanctions against smaller countries at low cost, Western policymakers have only limited experience and understanding of the effects of truly severe measures against a major, globally connected economy. Existing fragilities in the world’s economic and financial structure mean that such sanctions have the potential to cause grave political and material fallout.

THE REAL SHOCK AND AWE

Just how severe the current sanctions against Russia are can be seen from their effects across the world. The immediate shock to the Russian economy is the most obvious. Economists expect Russian GDP to contract by at least 9–15 percent this year, but the damage could well become much more severe.

The ruble has fallen more than a third since the beginning of January. An exodus of skilled Russian professionals is underway, while the capacity to import consumer goods and valuable technology has fallen drastically. As Russian political scientist Ilya Matveev has put it, “30 years of economic development thrown into the bin.”

The ramifications of the Western sanctions go far beyond these effects on Russia itself. There are at least four different kinds of broader effects: spillover effects into adjacent countries and markets; multiplier effects through private-sector divestment; escalation effects in the form of Russian responses; and systemic effects on the global economy.

Spillover effects have already caused turmoil in international commodities markets. A generalized panic erupted among traders after the second Western sanctions package—including the SWIFT cutoff and the freezing of central bank reserves—was announced on February 26.

Prices of crude oil, natural gas, wheat, copper, nickel, aluminum, fertilizers, and gold have soared. Because the war has closed Ukrainian ports and international firms are shunning Russian commodity exports, a grain and metals shortage now looms over the global economy.

Although oil prices have since dropped in anticipation of additional output from Gulf producers, the price shock to energy and commodities across the board will push global inflation higher. African and Asian countries reliant on food and energy imports are already experiencing difficulties.

Economists expect Russian GDP to contract by at least 9 to 15 percent this year.

Central Asia’s economies are also caught up in the sanctions shock. These former Soviet states are strongly connected to the Russian economy through trade and outward labor migration. The collapse of the ruble has caused serious financial distress in the region.

Kazakhstan has imposed exchange controls after the tenge, its currency, fell by 20 percent in the wake of the Western sanctions against Moscow; Tajikistan’s somoni has undergone a similarly steep depreciation. Russia’s impending impoverishment will force millions of Central Asian migrant workers to seek employment elsewhere and dry up the flow of remittances to their home countries.

The impact of the sanctions goes beyond decisions taken by G-7 and EU governments. The official sanctions packages have had a catalyzing effect on international businesses operating in Russia. Virtually overnight, Russia’s impending isolation has set in motion a massive corporate flight.

In what amounts to a vast private sector boycott, hundreds of major Western firms in the technology, oil and gas, aerospace, car, manufacturing, consumer goods, food and beverage, accounting and financial, and transport industries are pulling out of the country.

It is noteworthy that these departures are in many cases not required by sanctions. Instead, they are driven by moral condemnation, reputational concerns, and outright panic. As a result, the business retreat is deepening the economic shock to Russia by multiplying the negative economic effects of official state sanctions.

The Russian government has responded to the sanctions in several ways. It has undertaken emergency stabilization policies to protect foreign exchange earnings and shore up the ruble. Foreign portfolio capital is being locked into the country.

While the stock market has remained closed, the assets of many Western firms that have departed may soon face confiscation. The Ministry of Economic Development has prepared a law that grants the Russian state six months to take over businesses in case of an “ungrounded” liquidation or bankruptcy.

The potential nationalization of Western capital is not the only escalatory effect of the sanctions. On March 9, Putin signed an order restricting Russian commodity exports. Although the full array of items to be withheld under the ban is not yet clear, the threat of its use will continue to hang over international trade.

Russian restrictions on fertilizer exports imposed in early February have already put pressure on global food production. Russia could retaliate by restricting exports of important minerals such as nickel, palladium, and industrial sapphires. These are crucial inputs for the production of electrical batteries, catalytic converters, phones, ball bearings, light tubes, and microchips.

In the globalized assemblage system, even small changes in materials prices can massively raise the production costs faced by final users downstream in the production chain. A Russian embargo or large export reduction of palladium, nickel, or sapphires would hit car and semiconductor manufacturers, a $3.4 trillion global industry.

If the economic war between the West and Russia continues further into 2022 at this intensity, it is very possible that the world will slide into a sanctions-induced recession.

MANAGING THE FALLOUT

The combination of spillover effects, negative multiplier effects, and escalation effects means that the sanctions against Russia will have an effect on the world economy like few previous sanctions regimes in history. Why was this great upheaval not anticipated?

One reason is that over the last few decades, U.S. policymakers have usually deployed sanctions against economies that were sufficiently modest in size for any significant adverse effects to be contained. The degree of integration into the world economy of North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Myanmar, and Belarus was relatively modest and one-dimensional. Only the rollout of U.S. sanctions against Iran required special care to avoid upsetting the oil market.

In general, however, the assumption held that sanctions use was economically almost costless to the United States. This has meant that the macroeconomic and macrofinancial consequences of global sanctions are insufficiently understood.

To better grasp the choices to be made in the current economic sanctions against Russia, it is instructive to examine sanctions use in the 1930s, when democracies similarly attempted to use them to stop the aggression of large-sized autocratic economies such as Fascist Italy, imperial Japan, and Nazi Germany.

The crucial backdrop to these efforts was the Great Depression, which had weakened economies and inflamed nationalism around the world. When Italian dictator Benito Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in October 1935, the League of Nations implemented an international sanctions regime enforced by 52 countries. It was an impressive united response, similar to that on display in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the league sanctions came with real tradeoffs. Economic containment of Fascist Italy limited democracies’ ability to use sanctions against an aggressor who was more threatening still: Adolf Hitler.

As a major engine of export demand for smaller European economies, Germany was too large an economy to be isolated without severe commercial loss to the whole of Europe. Amid the fragile recovery from the Depression, simultaneously placing sanctions on both Italy and Germany—then the fourth- and seventh-largest economies in the world—was too costly for most democracies.

Hitler exploited this fear of overstretch and the international focus on Ethiopia by moving German troops into the demilitarized Rhineland in March 1936, advancing further toward war. German officials were aware of their commercial power, which they used to maneuver central European and Balkan economies into their political orbit.

The result was the creation of a continental, river-based bloc of vassal economies whose trade with Germany was harder for Western states to block with sanctions or a naval blockade.

The sanctions dilemmas of the 1930s show that aggressors should be confronted when they disrupt the international order. But it equally drives home the fact that the viability of sanctions, and the chances of their success, are always dependent on the global economic situation.

In unstable commercial and financial conditions, it will be necessary to prioritize among competing objectives and prepare thoroughly for unintended effects of all kinds. Using sanctions against very large economies will simply not be possible without compensatory policies that support the sanctioners’ economies and the rest of the world.

More intensive sanctions will inflict further damage to the world economy.

The Biden administration is aware of this problem, but its actions so far are inadequate to the scale of the problem. Washington has attempted to reduce strains in the oil market by a partial reconciliation with Iran and Venezuela.

Countering the spillover effects of sanctions against one leading petrostate may now require lifting sanctions on two smaller petrostates. But this oil diplomacy is insufficient to meet the challenge posed by the Russia sanctions, the effects of which are aggravating preexisting economic woes.

Supply chain issues and pandemic-era bottlenecks in global transport and production networks predated the war in Ukraine. The unprecedented use of sanctions in these already troubled conditions has made an already difficult situation worse.

The problem of managing the fallout of economic war is greater still in Europe. This is not only because the European Union has much stronger trade and energy links with Russia. It is also the result of the political economy of the eurozone as it has taken shape over the last two decades: with the exception of France, most of its economies follow a heavily trade-reliant, export-focused growth strategy.

This economic model requires foreign demand for exports while repressing wages and domestic demand. It is a structure that is very ill suited to the prolonged imposition of trade-reducing sanctions. Increasing EU-wide renewable energy investment and expanding public control in the energy sector, as French President Emmanuel Macron has announced, is one way to absorb this shock.

But there is also a need for income-boosting measures for consumer goods and price-dampening interventions in producer goods markets, from strategic reserve management to the excess profits taxes that are being rolled out in Spain and Italy.

Then there are the consequences of sanctions cause for the world economy at large, especially in the “global South.” Addressing these problems will pose a major macroeconomic challenge. It is therefore imperative for the G-7, the European Union, and the United States’ Asian partners to launch bold and coordinated action to stabilize global markets.

This can be done through targeted investment to clear up supply bottlenecks, generous international grants and loans to developing countries struggling to secure adequate food and energy supplies, and large-scale government funding for renewable energy capacity.

It will also have to involve subsidies, and perhaps even rationing and price controls, to protect the poorest from the destructive effects of surging food, energy, and commodity prices.

Such state intervention is the price to be paid for engaging in economic war. Inflicting material damage at the scale levelled against Russia simply cannot be pursued without an international policymaking shift that extends economic support to those affected by sanctions. Unless the material well-being of households is protected, political support for sanctions will crumble over time.

THE NEW INTERVENTIONISTS

Western policymakers thus face a serious decision. They must decide whether to uphold sanctions against Russia at their current strength or to impose further economic punishment on Putin. If the goal of the sanctions is to exert maximum pressure on Russia with minimal disruption to their own economies—and thus a manageable risk of domestic political backlash—then current levels of pressure may be the most that is politically feasible now.

At the moment, simply maintaining existing sanctions will require active compensatory policies. For Europe especially, neither laissez-faire economic policies nor fiscal fragmentation will be sustainable if the economic war persists. But if the West decides to step up the economic pressure on Russia further still, far-reaching economic interventions will become an absolute necessity.

More intensive sanctions will inflict further damage, not just to the sanctioners themselves but to the world economy at large. No matter how strong and justified the West’s resolve to stop Putin’s aggression is, policymakers must accept the material reality that an all-out economic offensive will introduce considerable new strains into the world economy.

An intensification of sanctions will cause a cascade of material shocks that will demand far-reaching stabilization efforts.And even with such rescue measures, the economic damage may well be serious, and the risks of strategic escalation willremain high.

For all these reasons, it remains vital to pursue diplomatic and economic paths that can end the conflict. Whatever the results of the war, the economic offensive against Russia has already exposed one important new reality: the era of costless, risk-free, and predictable sanctions is well and truly over.

India Abstains On Resolution By Russia At UN Security Council

Signaling that India is not aligned with the Russian position, India on March  24th abstained on a resolution pushed by Russia in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine — the resolution was perceived to be critical of Ukraine. The resolution failed to get adopted as it did not get the required nine votes to pass.

Reports state, this is the first time that India has abstained on a Russia-sponsored resolution. In previous votes on the Ukraine war, India abstained from resolutions sponsored by the West that were critical of Moscow’s actions. The latest move reflects Delhi’s attempt to portray its neutrality as it continues to engage and maintain its diplomatic tightrope walk on the issue.

Hours later, India again abstained on an United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution moved by the French and the Mexicans, which got 140 votes in favor, 38 abstentions and five against, and was “strong” in its condemnatory language against Russia.

Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden has said that among the Quad countries, India was “somewhat shaky” in terms of showing its opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Australia and Japan, who make up the Quad along with India and the US, have criticised Russia’s aggression. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla is at the UN in New York where the resolution was negotiated and India’s abstention took place.

Russia and China voted in favor of the resolution, which was co-sponsored by Syria, North Korea and Belarus, while India and the remaining 12 UNSC members abstained.

India had previously abstained on two occasions at the UNSC and once in the General Assembly on resolutions on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On Thursday, unlike the other abstaining UNSC members, India did not issue any statement on the vote.

Russia had called for a vote in the 15-nation UNSC on its draft resolution. It “demands that civilians, including humanitarian personnel and persons in vulnerable situations, including women and children, are fully protected, calls for negotiated ceasefire for enabling safe, rapid, voluntary and unhindered evacuation of civilians, and underscores the need for the parties concerned to agree on humanitarian pauses to this end.”

The Russian resolution, which makes no reference to its invasion, calls upon all parties concerned to allow safe and unhindered passage to destinations outside of Ukraine, including to foreign nationals without discrimination.

It also seeks to facilitate safe and unhindered access of humanitarian assistance to those in need in and around Ukraine, taking into account the particular needs of women, girls, men and boys, the elderly and persons with disabilities.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield tweeted that “in a unified protest vote”, 13 members of the Security Council abstained from Russia’s resolution deflecting blame for the humanitarian crisis it has created in Ukraine.

The Russian resolution was one of the three on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine that were put up before the UN General Assembly and Security Council.

The 193-member General Assembly resumed its 11th Emergency Special Session on Ukraine and voted Thursday on a draft resolution ‘Humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine’, which was sponsored by France and Mexico.

In a bid to project a “neutral attempt”, South Africa has put forward a rival resolution for UNGA, ‘Humanitarian situation emanating out of the conflict in Ukraine’, which makes no mention of Russia.

South Africa is a member of the BRICS grouping and had earlier abstained, along with India, on the resolution condemning Russia. Its resolution calls for immediate cessation of hostilities by “all parties” in the conflict, and encourages political dialogue, negotiations, mediation and other peaceful means aimed at achieving peace.

The fact that Shringla has gone to New York when a series of Foreign Ministers are visiting India — Greece and Oman Foreign ministers are in Delhi — shows the importance India is attaching to this round of resolutions

Earlier this month, the US State Department had recalled a cable to American diplomats that instructed them to inform counterparts from India and UAE that their position of neutrality on Ukraine put them “in Russia’s camp”, US news outlet ‘Axios’ had reported.

Since then, a series of leaders and officials from Western countries — US, Australia, Japan and Austria – have visited India and have discussed the situation in Ukraine.

50% Of Women Face False Positive Mammograms After 10 Years Of Annual Screening

Newswise — A study led by UC Davis Health has found that half of all women will experience at least one false positive mammogram over a decade of annual breast cancer screening with digital breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography). The risk of false positive results after 10 years of screening is considerably lower in women screened every other year. A false positive is when a mammogram is flagged as abnormal, but there is no cancer in the breast. The study was published today in JAMA Network Open.

It also showed that repeated breast cancer screening with 3D mammography only modestly decreases the chance of having a false positive result compared with the standard digital 2D mammography. Other factors more strongly linked to a lower false positive risk included screening every other year and having non-dense breasts. Older women were also less likely to have a false positive result.

“The screening technology did not have the largest impact on reducing false positives,” said Michael Bissell, epidemiologist in the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences and co-first author of the study. “Findings from our study highlight the importance of patient-provider discussions around personalized health. It is important to consider a patient’s preferences and risk factors when deciding on screening interval and modality.”

False positive mammograms are common

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death for women in the U.S. Early detection using screening mammography is a key strategy to lower the risk of advanced breast cancer and death from this disease.

A false positive result is a positive screening mammography assessment that leads to more diagnostic work-up but no diagnosis of breast cancer. When abnormalities are found on a mammogram, the patient is recalled for additional imaging and follow-up tests. If found to be cancer-free at the end of diagnostic evaluation and for one year after her recall, the patient is considered to have received a false positive result.

“Despite the important benefit of screening mammography in reducing breast cancer mortality, it can lead to extra imaging and biopsy procedures, financial and opportunity costs, and patient anxiety,” said Diana Miglioretti, professor and division chief of biostatistics at the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher and senior author of the study.

False positive results are common. While around 12% of 2D screening mammograms are recalled for more work-up, only 4.4% of those recalls, or 0.5% overall, conclude with a cancer diagnosis.

“To detect breast cancer early, we need to be careful and investigate any potentially abnormal findings. So, women should not be worried if recalled for additional imaging or biopsy. The vast majority of these results are found to be benign,” said Thao-Quyen Ho, radiologist at the University Medical Center in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, research fellow at UC Davis School of Medicine and co-first author on the study.

Analyzing mammograms for false positive results

The researchers analyzed data collected by the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium on 3 million screening mammograms for 903,495 women aged 40–79 years. The screenings were performed between 2005-2018 at 126 radiology facilities.

The study evaluated screening modality, screening interval, age and breast density. It estimated the cumulative risk that a woman would receive at least one false positive recall over 10 years of annual or biennial (every other year) screening. It also assessed the risks of a false positive that resulted in a recommendation to repeat imaging within six months (short interval follow-up) and separately, in a biopsy recommendation.

Mammography versus tomosynthesis for breast cancer screening

The study found that the probability of receiving at least one false positive recall over a 10-year period was slightly lower with 3D than 2D digital mammography. The decrease in false positives with 3D vs. 2D mammography was greatest for women with non-dense breasts and those who had annual screenings.

The researchers estimated that over 10 years of annual tomosynthesis screening, 50% of women will experience at least one false positive recall, 17% a false positive short-interval follow-up recommendation, and 11% a false positive biopsy recommendation. This is compared to 56% of women screened with 2D digital mammograms having a false positive recall, 18% a short-interval follow-up recommendation, and 12% a biopsy recommendation.

Regardless of the type of screening, false positive results were substantially lower for older than younger age groups and women with entirely fatty versus extremely dense breasts.

Annual versus biennial breast cancer screening

The study also estimated 10-year risks for annual vs. biennial screenings. It found that screening every other year showed a considerably lower probability of at least one false positive result than annual mammograms over ten years of screening. This finding was observed for both 3D and 2D mammography.

“We were surprised that the newer 3D technology in breast cancer screening does not substantially reduce the risk of having a false positive result after 10 years of screening; however, chances of false positives are much lower with repeated biennial vs. annual screening,” said Ho.

For short-interval follow-up recommendations, 17% of women undergoing annual 3D mammography are estimated to have at least one false positive over 10 years, compared to just 10% of those undergoing biennial screening. False positive benign biopsy recommendations are estimated to occur in 11% of women receiving annual 3D mammograms but in only 7% of those screened every two years.

After 10 years of annual screening, the risk of a false positive result was lower in 3D than 2D mammography for all outcomes. For biennial screening, the risk of a false positive recall was lower with 3D mammography. There was no difference in short interval follow-up or biopsy recommendations.

The other authors on this study are: Karla Kerlikowske and Jeffrey A. Tice at the University of California, San Francisco; Rebecca A. Hubbard at the University of Pennsylvania; Brian L. Sprague at the University of Vermont; Christoph I. Lee at the University of Washington and Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research; and Anna N. A. Tosteson at Dartmouth College and Norris Cotton Cancer Center.  Miglioretti is also an affiliate investigator with UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research.

Money, EconomyIndia’s Rupee Continues To Fall Due To Inflationary Pressures

Inflationary concerns over elevated commodity prices are expected to maintain pressure on the Indian rupee during the upcoming week.

Accordingly, high crude oil as well as other raw material prices are expected to unleash a domestic inflationary wave.This trend, said senior analysts, will dent growth prospects along with leading to an eventual rise in interest rates.However, fiscal end dollar selling by software majors will arrest any sharp downfall in rupee value against the USD. Consequently, the Spot USDINR is expected to settle in the range of 76 to 76.50 for the next week.

“Crude and rising US yields kept the rupee weak amid Ukraine war concerns,” said Sajal Gupta Head Fx & Rates Edelweiss. “Rising inflation is a concern across the globe and does not see a immediate solutiona which shall keep the currency weaker.”

Last week, the rupee depreciated by half a per cent amidst a strong US dollar, higher crude oil and weaker risk sentiments. The rupee closed at 76.20 to a greenback after swinging between 75.80 and 76.50 to a USD. “Biggest driver remains crude oil prices and sentiment towards equity markets,” said Devarsh Vakil, Deputy Head of Retail Research, HDFC Securities.

“We expect RBI to keep utilising its large forex reserves to keep the INR stable at around current levels. The bias for USDINR remains skewed to the upside following continued geopolitical worries and broad-based selling by foreign institutions.” The RBI is known to enter the markets via intermediaries to either sell or buy US dollars to keep the rupee in a stable orbit.

Gaurang Somaiya, Forex & Bullion Analyst, Motilal Oswal Financial Services, said: “Next week, on the domestic front, market participants will continue to monitor how crude prices will be moving and at the same time, FIIs participation will be important to watch. “Fiscal deficit and trade balance number will also be released next week and will be influencing the rupee.”

After Biden Remarked Of “Somewhat Shaky” Relationship With India, US State Dept. Says “India Is An Essential Partner Of US”

Making clear his unhappiness with New Delhi’s stand, United States President Joe Biden on Tuesday termed India’s response to the Russian military offensive in Ukraine as “shaky”, while also making it clear that the response of other Quad members such as Japan and Australia was “strong.”

US state department spokesperson Ned Price said notwithstanding India’s historic relationship with Russia, which came together at a time when the US was not prepared to have such kind of a relationship with India, now the US is a partner of India. 

India has so far abstained from voting against Russia on any of the UN resolutions so far on the Ukraine conflict. The issue could be raised by the US at the high-level 2+2 talks between the two nations at the defence and foreign ministerial level that is expected to take place in Washington next month.

India has time-tested ties with Russia spanning decades, especially in the defence and civil nuclear sectors and is now also purchasing Russian oil at discounted rates, much to the dismay of Washington.

Speaking at a Business Roundtable, President Biden said, “In response to dealing with his (Russian President Vladimir Putin’s) aggression, there has been an united front in NATO and the Pacific. The Quad has, with the possible exception of India (which has) been somewhat shaky on some of this, but Japan has been extremely strong. So has Australia in terms of dealing with Putin’s aggression.”

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said last week that India is an essential partner of the United States as both the countries share the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. New Delhi’s stand on Russia because of their historic defense relationship does not come in the way as the US is a partner of choice for India. The comment follows US president Joe Biden’s recent remark that only the response of India, among the Quad countries, has been “somewhat shaky” against Russia.

9th Annual Winter Medical Conference (WMC) Of Indian American Young Medical Professionals Held

The 9th annual Winter Medical Conference (WMC) was held March 17 -20 at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa, FL and was an overwhelming success!  Filled with interactive sessions to promote career growth, leadership, networking, and more, WMC 9 embraced our theme, “Achieving Excellence” in every facet.   The sessions were designed to go beyond motivating the audience to arming attendees with tools to “Achieve Excellence”.

The feedback from the conference has been overwhelmingly positive with higher than projected attendance and record number of new attendees.  A few highlights include Dr. Latha Ganti’s research workshop which taught members how to maximize their publication productivity.  Dr. Bobby Mukkamala empowered physicians.

Dr. Kiran Patel (Dr. K) inspired attendees and Dr. K. Srinath Reddy educated attendees on the current state of heart disease amongst Indians.  Former Navy SEAL Kevin Stark taught the group breathing techniques to optimize performance.  A historic 5.5 hrs of CME was included.  For the first time, multiple simulators were brought on site for attendees to experience.  Registrants also received “Pearls of Wisdom” with tips from various speakers.

Attendees also enjoyed getting to know each other at social events including a sunset cruise, HOLI games, and various mixers.   We also celebrated MSRF’s Silver Jubilee and there was a record number of poster presentations.  This was also the first year oral presentations were done at WMC.

In addition, the Inaugural Kakani Foundation Award was bestowed on the very deserving Bhavana Patil.  We thank AAPI EC, BOT, the Kakani Foundation, and all our sponsors, without whom this event would not have been possible.

Muslim Family In India Donates Land To Build ‘World’s Largest Hindu Temple’, Taller Than Angkor Vat

Amid the media hype about the growing communal divide in India, a Muslim family in Bihar has quietly donated land worth over 2.5 crore rupees (over US $300,000) for the construction of what is being billed as “the world’s largest Hindu temple”.

The Virat Ramayan Mandir is supposed to come up in the Kaithwalia area of East Champaran district in the state, about 150 km from state capital Patna.

Acharya Kishore Kunal, chief of the Patna-based Mahavir Mandir Trust, that has undertaken the project, said that Ishtiyaq Ahmad Khan, who has donated the land, is a businessman from East Champaran based in Guwahati.

“He recently completed all formalities pertaining to the donation of land belonging to his family for the construction of the temple at the registrar office of the Kesharia sub-division (East Chanmparan),” Kunal, a former police officer, told reporters.

He said that this donation by Khan and his family was a great example of social harmony and brotherhood between two communities. Without the help of Muslims, it would have been difficult to realise this dream project for Hindus, he added.

The Mahavir Mandir Trust has so far obtained 125 acres of land for construction of this temple. The trust will soon obtain another 25 acres of land too in the area. The exact amount of land donated by the Khan family to the temple trust was not disclosed. And Khan has not so far spoken publicly on the issue.

The Virat Ramayan Mandir – whose total cost is expected to be 500 crore rupees – nearly 80 million dollars – is slated to be taller than the world-famous 12th century Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia, which is 215 feet high. The complex in East Champaran will comprise 18 temples with high spires and its Shiv temple will have the world’s largest Shivling.

The India – UAE Agreement: A Developmental Milestone

The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which was signed between India and the UAE on February 18, 2022, is the biggest milestone in the relationship between the two countries so far. This is the biggest agreement signed by the two countries till date. The Arab media covered the signing of the agreement under the headline “New Boundaries, New Milestone”. However the Indian media neglected to see the scope and importance of the agreement.

This agreement on trade, industry and labor, the biggest agreement that the UAE has signed with any country so far, is a reflection of India’s changed attitude towards trade relations. It certainly opens the road to great progress in the commerce between the two countries. The agreement is estimated to help increase the trade between the two countries by 100 billion dollars in five years. That is, trade worth Rupees 7.5 lakh crores.

Till now China was  UAE’s largest market. With the new agreement, India will step into that place. This agreement is particularly important at a time when India is taking a strong stance against Chinese products. It is heartening to note that the UAE has not taken into consideration Pakistan which is trying to gain a better foothold there than India on considerations like religion. The agreement aims at encouraging, rejuvenating and generally improving sectors like economy, energy, weather forecasting, technology, education, food safety, health, defense and security. With the signing of the agreement, the import duties on various products will come down.

The agreement will also open the way for a large number of Indian products to find a market in the UAE. About 90% of products from India will be excluded from import duties. This will become 99% in five years. India will not charge import tax on 80% of imports from the UAE. This will become 90% within ten years. These reductions open new avenues for Indian investors.

At the same time, some very important products from India have been put in a safe section and excluded from the agreement. These include milk products, fruits, vegetables, rubber, tobacco, tea, grains, coffee, hair dye, soap, tyre, footwear, medical instruments, vehicle spares and a few others.

The UAE is India’s second largest market in jewelry export. Refined petroleum, mobile phones, diamonds, iron, steel, organic chemicals, grains, vessels, etc  are products that India exports to the UAE in large quantities. Gold, crude oil, plastic, copper, aluminum  etc are the products that India buys from the UAE. The UAE is also the second largest source of gold import in India.

This is the first time that an IIT is being set up anywhere outside India. As part of the agreement, India will set up educational institutions of excellence in the UAE. This will be a blessing to talented children of Indians living there.

The UAE rulers have realized that the era of oil money is coming to an end. That is why they are focusing on business startups and are opening the country’s doors to investors. It is because of this realization by the rulers, that the UAE has become the main hub of business in the Gulf. The decrease in the flow of oil money has been adversely affecting Indian workers in the Gulf for a long while now, and they have been desperately looking for ways to safeguard their future.

The new India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, signed by the two countries, comes as a big ray of hope. The agreement signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a virtual summit, lays open an entire world of opportunities before the employment sector, job seekers and entrepreneurs.

This agreement alone will create a hundred and fifty thousand new jobs for Indians in the UAE. These gigantic job opportunities are being created for us by the agreement at a time when Nitaqat, Covid and the economic slowdown have destroyed innumerable jobs in the Gulf. Experts say that one million more jobs will be created in India through the investments the UAE will make there.

This agreement between India and the UAE needs to be seen only as a beginning. Economists forecast that other Gulf countries will not be able to ignore the economic development that will happen in the UAE through the commercial and industrial partnership with India. Such creative partnerships always destroy the boundaries of inequalities.

Honoring Victims of 1971 Bangladesh Genocide, HinduPact Demands Recognition and Punishment for Pakistani Perpetrators

HinduPACT has launched a campaign to officially recognize the planned massacre of millions of people in Bangladesh, mostly Hindus, in 1971 as a genocide and to prosecute the Pakistani perpetrators who were involved with the planning and execution of “Operation Searchlight.”

“There are more than 195 officially recognized Pakistani military officers who were never prosecuted for their crimes against humanity,” said HinduPACT Executive Director Utsav Chakrabarti. “Many of these officials now hold positions of power and influence in Pakistan today including in the Armed Forces of Pakistan. It is time to hold them responsible and apply Magnitsky sanctions and prosecute them to the highest degree.”

“HinduPACT has been reaching out to the lawmakers over the course of many months to inform them of this atrocity and push for a formal recognition of this genocide,” said Ajay Shah, President of World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) and the Convenor of HinduPACT.  He added, “this is the largest genocide to take place in recent times. It is incomprehensible why the perpetrators of this  monstrosity have not been held accountable. Are political considerations more important than justice for the victims?”

“History repeats itself because people forget it,” said Adelle Nazarian, Director of Communications and Legislative Outreach for HinduPACT. “It is critical that the 1971 genocide be formally recognized for what it is so that future generations can look back in the coffers of history and never repeat the same mistakes again.” She added, “I encourage the White House and the State Department to promote peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region as a whole, and the rights of all people living in the region, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality or religion so they may all equally enjoy the benefits of democracy and economic opportunity.”

HinduPACT has been advocating global human rights and civil liberties issues under the initiative HAHRI – Hindus Advancing Human Rights Internationally – and has met with several lawmakers to discuss the issue and has many more meetings planned and urges everyone interested in seeing the 1971 genocide formally recognized to sign the following petitionhttps://hindupact.org/2022/03/23/condemn1971genocide_2022/

India’s Supreme Court Rejects Plea Monitor Christian Missionaries

A Jesuit rights champion in India has hailed the Supreme Court for dismissing a petition filed by a Hindu group seeking to monitor the activities of Christian missionaries.

While declining to entertain the plea by Hindu Dharma Parishad on March 25, the apex court warned the organization it would face a fine if it came up with such a petition again, as reported by legal news portal Live Law.

The petition was earlier dismissed by Madras High Court in 2021, following which the Hindu group moved the Supreme Court, said media reports.

“It is a step in the right direction. The legitimate constitutional rights and freedoms of all citizens — particularly minorities — must be upheld and protected by the government and the judiciary,” Father Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest from Gujarat, told UCA News.

Father Prakash said the petition was frivolous on two major counts.

“Firstly, it is a direct violation of Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees every single citizen of India the fundamental right of freedom of conscience, the freedom to profess, practice and propagate one’s religion,” he said.

“Secondly, there are enough provisions in official legislation and in the Code Of Criminal Procedure, to ensure checks and balances and to address any misuse or abuse by any individual or group — irrelevant of one’s faith.”

He said that minorities, particularly Christians and Muslims, are demonized and denigrated as never before and this must stop immediately.

Father Prakash said that groups “like the Hindu Dharma Parishad indulge in divisiveness and vilification campaigns against minorities with the sole intention of destroying the country’s secular fabric and must be reined in without further delay.”

Madras High Court in its order had held that laws prohibiting forceful religious conversion were already in place. The Hindu group challenged it in the Supreme Court alleging that “anti-social and anti-national elements were forcibly converting people from Hinduism to other religions, notably Christianity.”

Its petition further appealed the apex court “to strengthen India’s unity and sovereignty and stability” for which it sought that the incomes and activities of the Christian missionaries be “checked” and “monitored.”

The group alleged that due to non-surveillance of the income earned by Christian religious properties, hundreds of new minority trusts disguised as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were being created.

“And these NGOs are getting large sums of money through foreign aid, which is being utilized for financing anti-social activities and provoking innocent people to indulge [in] disturbing the peace in the country,” it was alleged in the dismissed petition.

12 CME Credit Hours On Healthcare Issues & Advances In Med Technology During 40th Annual AAPI Convention

“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, AAPI delegates will have a multidisciplinary CME conference that allows specialists and primary care physicians to interact in an academic forum. World-renowned speakers will discuss gaps between current and best practice of wide-ranging topics at the CME sessions,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI announced here today. 

The annual convention this year is being organized by AAPI’s Texas Chapter, headed by Dr. Jayesh Shah, who said, “The 2022 AAPI Annual Convention & Scientific Assembly offers an exciting venue to interact with leading physicians, health professionals, experts in healthcare, academicians, and scientists of Indian origin. The CME Committee, chaired by Dr. Shweta Bansal with Dr. Deepak Kamat, Dr. Dharam Kaushik, and Dr. Jayasree Pillarisetti as members have done an excellent job in putting together an expert panel of speakers for the CME program.” 

“The CME sessions will provide comprehensive and current reviews and guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of various disease states to reduce morbidity and mortality and achieve cost-effective quality care outcomes, said Dr. Bansal. “At the end of the activity, it is expected that attendees will gain an understanding of the causation, diagnosis and the best clinical practices for the management of the diverse group of diseases discussed during this program.”

Dr. Rajeev Suri, Co-Chair of the Convention explained the planning and preparations being done by the committee.  “San Antonio has a rich tradition in AAPI Convention history of amalgamating academia with fun and wellness. Our CME committee has strived hard to plan an exceptional series of topics presented by leaders in the academic arena. We invite you to San Antonio to rejoice, to learn, to rejuvenate and rekindle your mind and your spirits.”

Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Chair, AAPI CME Committee, said, “While providing physicians of Indian origin an opportunity to come together in an atmosphere of collegiality, it will enable them to retrace and appreciate their common roots, culture and the bond that unites them as members of this large professional community.”

“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,” Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect said.  

“Many of the physicians who will attend this convention have excelled in different specialties and subspecialties and occupy high positions as faculty members of medical schools, heads of departments, and executives of hospital staff,” Dr. Kusum Punjabi, Chair of AAPI BOT.

“AAPI Convention offers an opportunity to meet directly with these physicians who are leaders in their fields and play an integral part in the decision-making process regarding new products and services,” Venky Adivi, Chief Executive Officer of the Convention added.

At the Plenary sessions, Dr. Jack Reseneck, President of American Medical Association will address the audience on “How to prevent Physician burnout – AMA STEPS Program,” while Dr. Peter Hotez, a pioneer in inexpensive Covid vaccine program will speak on “COVID 19 Vaccination Globally and Vaccine Hesitancy.”

“Healthcare Equity and Ethics” will be the major theme on the inaugural day of the Convention. Dr. Sivashanker will share his thoughts on “How to make health equity a routine practice and process”. Chiquita Collins, PhD will discuss on “Achieving equity by diversity in workforce.” Colleen Bridger, MPH, PhD will shed her insights on “Improving child health addressing inequities/disparities.” At the end of this session. Dr. Courand guide us with  “Developing resilience in current environment of inequities.”

Latest in The Chronic Diseases Management is yet another major topic that will be extensively covered during the discussion.  “New horizons for DM and cardiorenal medicine” will be covered by Dr. Eugenio Cersosimo. It’s a well-known fact that people of South Asian origin are more prone to cardiac disease. Accordingly, Dr. Alka Kanaya will share her expertise on “South Asian cardiometabolic health: New findings from the MASALA Study.” Dr. Eric Lawitz will address the delegates on “Fatty Liver Disease: A silent epidemic.” In addition, light will be shed on: “Chronic pain management during opioid epidemic.”

Contemporary/Digital Medicine will be covered during the CME on Friday. “Telemedicine: novel practices and policy changes” will be the topic led by Dr. Zeke Silva, while Dr. Satish Misra will enlighten the delegates about “Are we ready for Smart Apps assisted care.” “Artificial intelligence in Medicine” will be covered by Dr. Rajendra Singh, and Dr. Zeke Silva will educate the participants on “Reimbursement/Approval challenges with digital medicine.”

Breakthroughs in Medicine is other major area that the AAPI delegates will learn from the experts. Dr. Poonam Malik will enlighten the participants on “Gene editing and therapy: Success story for Hemoglobinopathies.” Dr. Sudha Sheshadri will focus her discussions on “A step forward in Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis care.” “Lipid management: present & future” will be discussed by Dr. Anand Prasad. “Immunologics in cancer and beyond” will be the topic covered by Dr. Shanmuganathan Chandrakasan.

Covid has brought the world to a standstill, impacting almost all areas of human life, and just as humanity is emerging out of this major health crisis, our CME session called “Aftermath of COVID Pandemic” is designed to help AAPI delegates prepare for uncertain future.  Dr. Thomas Patterson will discuss “Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID/Long COVID- what we need to know” while Dr. Theresa Barton will speak about “Long COVID in children.” The delegates will also be educated on crucial topics such as “Impact on future health care system and delivery” and “Preparing for future pandemic” by Dr. Ruth Berggren.

With the ever-changing trends in healthcare, AAPI delegates will be provided with education in the session called “Navigating Successful Medicine Practice in the US.” This session includes topic like “Physician Employment Contracts and Non-Competes: What you really need to know”. “Navigating ACOs: Regulations, Payment and Compliance” will be covered by Dr. Jay Bhatt. “Crucial conversations: supervising midlevel providers” will be addressed by Dr. Robert Leverence.

It’s a well-known fact that physicians of Indian origin excel in their respective areas of work and continue to play key roles in patient care, administration, academics, and medical research.  “The essence of AAPI is educational,” Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI, while describing the purpose of CME said. 

According to Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI, “That translates into numerous Continuing Medical Education and non-CME seminars by experts in their fields.” Dr. Krishen Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI, “Giving them a platform to celebrate their accomplishments, to be attended by over 1,000 physicians of Indian origin, the Convention will also provide a forum to renew their professional commitment through continuing medical education.”

AAPI represents more than 100,000 Indian American Physicians, who represent the range of physician specialties seen in the physician community at large with 61% in Primary Care, 33% in Medical sub-specialties and 6% in surgical sub-specialties. Medical specialty representation includes pediatrics, psychiatry, anesthesiology/pain management, cardiology, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, gastroenterology, pathology, endocrinology, nephrology, rheumatology along with many other fields.

AAPI is an umbrella organization that has nearly 200 local chapters, specialty societies and alumni organizations. For nearly 40 years, Indian physicians have made significant contributions to health care in this country, not only practicing in inner cities, rural areas and peripheral communities but also at the top medical schools and other academic centers. Almost 10%-12% of medical students entering US schools are of Indian origin. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, AAPI represents the interests of all Indian American physicians, medical students, and residents of Indian heritage in the United States. It is the largest ethnic medical organization in the nation. For more details and registration for the convention, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org and www.aapiusa.org

“Master of Arts in Happiness Studies” Announced By Centenary University In New Jersey

Centenary University in the state of New Jersey is launching what it called the world’s first “Master of Arts in Happiness Studies.” The first ever such program at the University level will “explore the implications of happiness for individuals, the workplace, and our broader society,” according to the college’s announcement. It’s set to launch virtually in the fall and will cost students $17,700.

Centenary, a private college in Hackettstown, New Jersey, with about 1,100 students, teamed up with the Happiness Studies Academy to create the happiness program. University President Bruce Murphy told the media that a variety of professionals could benefit from the program, such as human resource employees creating trainings for staff or CEOs incorporating lessons into their organizations.

Murphy said in his March 18th announcement: “This online, 30-credit graduate degree is an interdisciplinary program designed for leaders who are committed to personal, interpersonal, organizational, and societal happiness. Grounded in science and research, this new degree will study happiness and resilience to prepare graduates to make an impact in a wide range of fields.”

“We were thrilled when Centenary University President Murphy and his colleagues were willing to take the leap, so to speak, and create and an academic field out of the fields of happiness, which is sorely needed in our world,” Ben-Shahar, who co-founded the Happiness Studies Academy, is quoted to have said.

The academy’s mission “is to lead the happiness revolution by educating leaders who are themselves dedicated to personal, interpersonal and communal flourishing,” according to its website.

“When we’re talking about happiness, we’re talking about cultivating resilience, the ability to deal with hardships, with difficulties, and there’s plenty to go around today,” Ben-Shahar told Fox News. “Whether you’re talking pandemic, whether you’re talking war, uncertainty, whether it’s on the economic level, the emotional level.”

“We need some practical advice, evidence-based advice to help people deal with difficulties,” he continued. The degree will incorporate aspects of various disciplines ranging from psychology, philosophy and neuroscience to finance and business to literature, religion and music.

“This fully online accredited MA in Happiness Studies focuses on educating leaders who are committed to the cultivation of wellbeing in themselves and others, to the fulfillment of society’s potential for both happiness and goodness,” the program’s website states. “Regardless of your area of interest and action … the rigorous ideas and evidence-based interventions that are part of the MA in Happiness Studies will help you bring out the best in your family, colleagues, clients, students and yourself.”

“Whatever profession you identify, there is a place – a very important place for happiness studies – for the science of well-being,” Tal Ben Shahar, a happiness expert and the director of the program, told the media. “The degree in happiness studies is relevant for essentially every field of practice,” Ben-Shahar said. He said the Happiness Studies Academy receives students from a variety of professions, including lawyers, doctors, therapists, teachers, coaches and managers.” 

Centenary has received 38 applications for the program since it was announced at the March 18 World Happiness Summit in Miami, Murphy was quoted to have said. “I see a lot of opportunity for individuals to be engaged, to take this master’s degree program, to get the certification and to go forth and do great things with it,” Murphy said. 

How Do Indians View Gender Roles In Families And Society: PEW Study

Today, Indians are largely accepting of women as political leaders, according to a Pew Research Center survey of nearly 30,000 Indian adults. Yet, in domestic settings, Indians tend to say men should have more prominent roles than women. For example, about nine-in-ten Indians agree with the notion that a wife must always obey her husband, including nearly two-thirds who completely agree with this sentiment.

Indian adults nearly universally say it is important for women to have the same rights as men, including eight-in-ten who say this is very important. At the same time, however, there are circumstances when Indians feel men should receive preferential treatment: 80% agree with the idea that “when there are few jobs, men should have more rights to a job than women,” according to a new Pew Research Center report.

The report, based on a face-to-face survey of 29,999 Indian adults fielded between late 2019 and early 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic, looks at how Indians view gender roles at home and in society more generally. The survey, which was also the basis for a 2021 report on religion in India, was conducted by local interviewers in 17 languages and covered nearly all of India’s states and union territories.

Here are key findings from the report.

  1. Indians broadly accept women as political leaders. India has a long history of women holding political power, from the 1966 election of Indira Gandhi, one of the world’s first woman prime ministers, to other well-known figures, such as Jayalalitha, Mamata Banerjee and Sushma Swaraj.

The survey results reflect this comfort with women in politics. Most adults say that women and men make equally good political leaders (55%) or that women generally make better leaders than men (14%). Only a quarter of Indian adults take the position that men tend to make better political leaders than women.

  1. While most Indians say that men and women should share some family responsibilities, many still support traditional gender roles. For instance, 62% of adults say both men and women should be responsible for taking care of children, while roughly a third of adults (34%) feel that child care should be handled primarily by women. Similarly, a slim majority (54%) say that both men and women in families should be responsible for earning money, yet many Indians (43%) see this as mainly the obligation of men.

Meanwhile, nearly nine-in-ten Indians (87%) completely or mostly agree with the notion that “a wife must always obey her husband.” This includes a majority of Indians (64%) who completely agree with this sentiment. Women are only modestly less likely than men to say that wives should obey their husbands in all situations, and most Indian women express total agreement with this sentiment (61% vs. 67% among men). (Throughout this report, differences in opinion between men and women are modest. In other words, Indian women typically are not much more likely than Indian men to express egalitarian views on gender roles.)

  1. An overwhelming majority of Indian adults say it is very important for families to have both sons and daughters, and a substantial share are accepting of sex-selective abortion. Indians are united in the view that it is very important for a family to have at least one son (94%) and, separately, a daughter (90%). Historically in Indian society, though, families have tended to place higher value on their sons than their daughters, a custom broadly referred to as “son preference.” One enduring manifestation of son preference has been the illegal practice of sex-selective abortions – using ultrasound or other tests to learn the sex of a fetus and terminating the pregnancy if the fetus is female.

The survey finds that four-in-ten Indians say it is either “completely acceptable” or “somewhat acceptable” to “get a checkup using modern methods to balance the number of girls and boys in the family,” a euphemism that connotes sex-selective abortion. In contrast, roughly half of adults (53%) say that this practice is either somewhat or completely unacceptable.

  1. Most Indians (63%) say sons should be primarily responsible for parents’ last rites or burial rituals, although attitudes differ significantly across religious groups. Religious funeral practices for loved ones are widely seen as very important in India, and at least according to Hindu tradition, sons must perform last rites for a parent to ensure freedom for the soul in the afterlife.

Most Muslims (74%), Jains (67%) and Hindus (63%) say sons should be primarily responsible for funeral rituals, but far fewer Sikhs (29%), Christians (44%) and Buddhists (46%) expect this from sons. (Muslims and Christians were asked about “burial rituals,” while all other respondents were asked about “last rites.”) Instead, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists are more likely to say that both sons and daughters should be responsible for their parents’ last rites. Very few Indians, regardless of religion, say daughters should be primarily responsible for funeral rituals.

  1. Muslims are more likely than other Indians to support traditional gender roles in families, while Sikhs are often the least likely community to hold such views. For example, while most Indian Muslims (61%) say that men in a family should be primarily responsible for earning money, just 17% of Sikhs say this. And Muslims are more than twice as likely as Sikhs to assign sons the primary responsibility of caring for aging parents (43% vs. 17%).
  2. Indians favor teaching boys to respect women as a way to improve women’s safety. As described in a previous Pew Research Center report, roughly three-quarters of Indian adults (76%) say violence against women is a “very big problem” in their country. Police cases registered as “crimes against women” nearly doubled between 2010 and 2019, and rapes and murders of women have led to massive protests across India. The survey asked respondents which of two options is more important to improve the safety of women in their community: teaching boys to respect all women or teaching girls to behave appropriately.

About half of Indians (51%) say it is more important to teach boys to respect all women, while roughly a quarter (26%) say it is more important to teach girls to behave appropriately. An additional quarter of Indian adults don’t take a clear position between those two options, instead voicing that some combination of the two approaches is necessary, that improved law and order through policing will improve the situation, or that women are already safe.

  1. Compared with people in other countries around the world, Indians have relatively traditional views on gender roles. Although Indian adults are roughly in line with the global median in their support for equal rights for women, by two other measures the Indian public appears much more conservative, according to a series of other surveys conducted by the Center in recent years.

Only one out of 61 countries surveyed has a higher share of adults than in India who agree completely with the notion that men should have greater rights to a job than women when jobs are scarce. And just two out of 34 countries surveyed exceed India in the shares who say a marriage is more satisfying if the husband provides for the family and the wife takes care of the house and children. On this question, the percentage of Indians who take this view (40%) is well above the global median (23%).

Sikhs Urge April To Be Declared As Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month

With April around the corner, now is the time to request Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month (SAAM) resolutions or proclamations from school boards, city councils, and state governments.

Sangats across the country have been able to use SAAM to raise awareness about the Sikh community at the local level. Since many state, county, and local governments have embraced virtual meetings, requesting and obtaining a Sikh awareness resolution or proclamation is easier than ever before. The following step-by-step guide can help sangat members to reach their local governments to help proclaim April as SAAM:

Step 1: Decide which government official you want to request a resolution from and look up their contact information at https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. You can request a proclamation from your governor, state legislature, city or county council, and/or school board. Please note that some government websites have a proclamation or resolution request form where you can ask for a SAAM proclamation or resolution using the draft language in this toolkit. If you are unsure of how to submit a request, it is best to contact that office directly via phone or email.

Step 2: Introduce yourself and share a little more information about the local Sikh community with the government official’s office (e.g. when the first gurdwara was established in the area, notable news or seva in the sangat, etc.). Ask them to introduce a SAAM resolution or proclamation to ensure that the broader community is aware of who Sikhs are and our positive contributions to the United States. Click here for an additional easy-to-use messaging resource on how to talk to an elected official about SAAM, and share the included draft language with them.

Step 3: Regularly follow-up with the office and keep the Sikh Coalition updated about the status of your resolution request. You can email Sikh Coalition staff at community@sikhcoalition.org with questions or concerns.

Even if your city, state or school district has recognized SAAM before, it does not necessarily mean that it will automatically happen again. In most cases, proclamations and resolutions must be renewed every year, which means that government offices have to hear from the sangat. Many offices require that requests be submitted well in advance, so we recommend submitting as soon as possible.

Navy Pier, Delhi committee of Chicago Sister Cities Jointly Celebrate Holi

First time a large metropolitan city in the United States, Chicago, celebrated the Indian festival of Holi, with over 2000 people in attendance which included live cultural programming, music and dancing, food and drink, and color throwing.

“The Delhi Committee of Chicago Sister Cities is thrilled to partner with Navy Pier for this event so that Chicagoans and visitors can participate in the celebration of Holi, a holiday that marks new life and energy,” said Smita N. Shah, Chairman of the Delhi Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International, Director on the Navy Pier Board of Directors, and CEO of SPAAN Tech, Inc.

“How fitting that we can celebrate this one-of-a-kind event on our beautiful lakefront, with Mayor Lightfoot, in the city blessed by Swami Vivekananda.”  Also in attendance were Consul General Amit Kumar, Indian Community Leader Niranjan S. Shah, Pratima Shah, and ABC 7 News Reporter, Ravi Baichwal.

Ravi Baichwal of ABC7 News, provided a welcome for attendees and served as the master of ceremonies. The celebration was the last of three events in the Global Connections series at Navy Pier presented by ComEd, which previously hosted events celebrating the Chinese New Year and International Carnivale.

“Chicago is a global city, and this partnership is a perfect example of that,” noted Mayor Lightfoot.  She also thanked Smita N. Shah for her commitment to the citizens of Chicago, leadership of the Delhi Committee, and for her appointment by President Biden to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders

Delhi’s position as a sister city to Chicago demonstrates the strong relationship between India and the city as well as the cultural importance of the established Indian American community to the Chicagoland community. Under Smita Shah’s leadership, the Delhi Committee of Chicago founded the Annual Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi Luncheon in 2014, honoring the long-standing exchange of ideas between Mahatma Gandhi and the U.S., and the ever-important principles of truth and non-violence. Shah also helped secure the designation of October 2nd as Mahatma Gandhi Day in Chicago.

Mannara Chopra, Bollywood Actor Leads Holi Celebrations By Aarush Entertainment

Festival of colors organized by Manoj Rathod (CEO of Aarush Entertainment) and UR Group was one of the biggest Holi and Indian cultural events which took place on Saturday, March 19, 2022 at Candela, 8526 W Golf Rd, Niles, IL 60714. This event touched the hearts as well as the dreams of Indian immigrants and natives simultaneously. The event was house full, enjoyed the vibrant colors, dazzling music, enthralling dances and award to Women Empowerment Icon

The special guest was Mannara Chopra (Actress plus model from Bollywood and Sunil Shah Chairman, Founders of FIA. Prachi Jaitly & Bharti Desai were Master of ceremony of this event. Women Empowerment Icon awardees were Prachi Jaitly, Bharti Desai, Rita Shah, Uma Avadhuta, Usha Bhaskar, Sweety Raheja, Sonya Gupta, Rebecca Bodony and Vibha Rajput.

The main highlight of the event came when participants picked up colored powder and chased each other, tossing colors into the air and covering friends and strangers alike. They joy and excitement filled the air and created a memorable experience for all.

“Today we are here to celebrate the Holi festival. The festival of colors, fun, happiness, friendship and love. May the colors spread the wings of joy, peace and laughter upon you and your family. We wish you Happy Holi” said by Manoj Rathod (CEO of Aarush Entertainment).

Mannara Chopra was born in Ambala CantonmentHaryana. Her name Mannara, is Greek for “something that shines’ ‘. Mannara’s mother is a Jewelry designer, and her father is a lawyer. Mannara was educated at Summer Fields School, New Delhi, and pursued a BBA degree and is a fashion designer after completing her education in Delhi, Mannara moved to Mumbai, where she started her career in modelling and moved into advertising. She is currently shooting with Director Teja for his forthcoming film alongside Kajal Aggarwal. She has played lead roles in Telugu cinema in Thikka, Rogue, Jakkanna.

The Aarush Entertainment company offers event planning & management services that also includes wedding designing, planning, management & consultancy, adopting a comprehensive approach & professional management information system to plan and produce a world class event experience each & every time all over the world. The highly skilled team of professionals at Aarush Entertainment strives hard to accomplish the highest standard of quality, effectiveness & novelty with due importance to the budgetary considerations.

Elon Musk Could Become World’s First Trillionaire In 2024

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk could become the first person to ever accumulate a $1 trillion net worth, and it could happen as soon as 2024, says a new report.

Musk is currently said to be the richest person in the world, overtaking former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last year to claim the title, reports Teslarati.

While Musk has stated many times that material possessions are not a concern of his, eventually selling nearly all of his personal properties as proof, a new study from Tipalti Approve suggests he could become the first person to ever accumulate a $1 trillion net worth.

Musk’s net worth, according to Forbes’ Real Time Billionaires list, sits at over $260 billion, nearly $70 billion more than Bezos’ current estimation of about $190 billion.

His wealth skyrocketed over the past few years thanks to his majority ownership of Tesla, which increased in value substantially since 2020. SpaceX also has helped Musk’s net worth skyrocket and could catalyze even more growth in the next two years.

“Since 2017, Musk’s fortune has shown an annual average increase of 129 per cent, which could potentially see him enter the trillion-dollar club in just two short years, achieving a net worth of $1.38 trillion by 2024 at age 52,” Tipalti Approve, who conducted the study, said in their report.

“SpaceX generates massive incomes by charging governmental and commercial clients to send various things into space, including satellites, ISS supplies, and people,” it added.

Other billionaires are also expected to hit the trillion-dollar range, but not before Musk, the report said.

Zhang Yiming, TikTok’s founder, is projected to reach a $1 trillion net worth by 2026 at 42 years old, making him the youngest trillionaire. Bezos may not hit the threshold until 2030. Bezos broke ground in the net worth realm by reaching $100 billion before any other entrepreneur in the world.

125-Year-Old Yoga Guru Receives Padma Shri

India’s President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday conferred the Padma Shri award to 125-year-old Swami Sivananda for his contribution towards Yoga at a Civil Investiture Ceremony-I held at Rashtrapati Bhavan, here.

Born in Pattamadai, in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, Swami Sivananda has authored 296 books on yoga, Vedanta, and a variety of subjects.

His books emphasised the practical application of Yoga philosophy over theoretical knowledge.

As Swami Sivananda entered the hall, he first bowed down in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, seeing that, also bowed down in front of him.

As he walked further towards the President’s chair, he again bowed down as a mark of respect towards the head of the state.

The video clip of 125-year-old Yoga Guru, receiving the award from the President went viral on social media with people showering their praises.

The Padma Awards are conferred in three categories, namely, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri. These Awards are given in various disciplines or fields of activities such as art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, civil service, etc.

‘Padma Vibhushan’ is awarded for exceptional and distinguished service; ‘Padma Bhushan’ for distinguished service of high order and ‘Padma Shri’ for distinguished service in any field. The awards are announced on the occasion of Republic Day every year.

Among the dignitaries present on the occasion were the Vice President of India, Prime Minister and Union Minister for Home Affairs, a communique from the Rashtrapati Bhavan said.

2,210 Additional Planes Needed In India Over Next 20 Years

Reuters: -Airbus expects Indian airlines to order 2,210 planes over the next 20 years, up from a previous forecast of 1,900, it said on Thursday, citing growth in the country’s aviation sector.

With low-cost carriers making up the bulk of the Indian market, Airbus expects airlines will need 1,770 narrowbody planes to grow their fleets and replace old planes, with the remainder being widebody planes, Brent McBratney, head of airline marketing for India and South Asia, said at an air show.

India’s domestic and international air travel market is expected to grow 6.2% per year over the next 20 years, outpacing average global growth of about 3.9%, McBratney said.

While a proliferation of low-cost carriers has spurred demand for narrowbody planes in India, McBratney also expects growth in long-haul travel, which he said was a largely untapped market for Indian carriers.

Domestic air travel in India is recovering from the pandemic, helping airlines such as IndiGo, which is Airbus’ biggest customer for its A320 narrowbody planes, and Vistara, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons, to boost capacity and utilisation levels.

But as crude prices hit record highs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the cost of jet fuel has risen, which could lead to higher ticket prices and temper demand.

However, Airbus expects domestic air travel in India to reach pre-COVID levels by mid-2022, while international travel traffic is expected to recover by next year. Airbus said in November it expected a market total of 39,020 jetliner deliveries over the next 20 years, fractionally lower than the 39,213 it forecast two years earlier.

8 Young Professional Hoteliers Session Topic and Speakers Set for AAHOACON22

We are pleased to announce our Young Professional Hoteliers session topic and speakers for AAHOACON22! As travel settles into the new post-pandemic normal, our industry has been predicting that this year will be the year hotel owners will be eager to buy and sell. Join us for “Development 2.0 – How to Take Property Development & Acquisition to the Next Level” (3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 13) as Justin Knight, CEO, Apple Hospitality REIT, and Jay H. Shah, CEO, Hersha Hospitality Trust, uncover what segments currently dominate the market and the best development and acquisition opportunities to capitalize on in 2022 and beyond.

Meanwhile in a message, AAHOA Chairman, Vinay Patel stated: “AAHOACON22 is less than 20 days away. One of the top perks of this year’s convention is the wealth of new knowledge, inspiration, and connections you will make in Baltimore next month.

I am pleased to announce that Justin Knight, CEO of Apple Hospitality REIT, and Jay H. Shah, CEO of Hersha Hospitality Trust, are the guest speakers for the Young Professional Hoteliers Session on Wednesday, April 13 at AAHOACON22. Knight and Shah will discuss the current market landscape and development and acquisition opportunities.

AAHOA also is excited to have as a part of the impressive speaker lineup Tori Emerson Barnes, Public Affairs and Policy Executive Vice President of U.S. Travel Association, Cindy Estis Green, CEO & Co-Founder of Kalibri Labs, and Tyler Morse, Chairman & CEO of MCR Hotels. You will not want to miss out on what they’ll share with attendees during our General Sessions.

This year’s convention promises to be an unforgettable experience. It will open with a Welcome Reception at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. The celebration will continue midweek when American-born Bollywood singer Jeffrey Iqbal headlines the Block Party at Power Plant Live!. Indian superstar playback singer/actor Shaan will help us end AAHOACON22 on a high note when he takes the stage for the closing Gala. Don’t miss the excitement – register today!

But the fun doesn’t stop after AAHOACON22 – we have a lot of excellent events coming up after, including two Regional Conferences and a charity golf tournament in May. Check out our upcoming events and make plans to join us.

The credentialing process for the 2022 AAHOA Elections starts on Monday, March 28 and ends April 8. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to update your profile in MyAAHOA today and avoid delays in credentialing. To ensure you are prepared and ready to vote in the 2022 Elections, visit the new Elections Resource Center on AAHOA.com, a hub for election information, including this step-by-step video to show you how to get started. I am proud to serve our members alongside Team AAHOA.”

With current labor challenges, price increases, pandemic-related construction delays, and more, the current landscape leaves much to the unknown. This informative session will discuss this new landscape and teach strategies on how to navigate property development and acquisition in this new era. Don’t miss it! Register today!

After A Month Of War, Ukrainian Refugee Crisis Ranks Among The World’s Worst In Recent History

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created one of the biggest refugee crises of modern times. A month into the war, more than 3.7 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries – the sixth-largest refugee outflow over the past 60-plus years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of United Nations data.

There are now almost as many Ukrainian refugees as there were Afghan refugees fleeing the (first) Taliban regime in 2001, according to figures compiled by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). They represent about 9.1% of Ukraine’s pre-invasion population of about 41.1 million – ranking the current crisis 16th among 28 major refugee crises by share of population.

The Center examined all cases in the UNHCR’s database since 1960 where there were at least 500,000 refugees and similarly displaced people from a given country in a given year. The analysis doesn’t include “internally displaced persons” – those who have fled or been forced from their usual homes but haven’t yet crossed an international border. (Earlier this week, UNHCR head Filippo Grandi estimated that, all told, 10 million Ukrainians – nearly a quarter of the population – had been displaced either internally or externally by the war.)

How we did this

Syria’s civil war, which began in 2011, has created more refugees than any other crisis since the early 1960s, when UNHCR began keeping data on individual countries. Nearly 6.9 million Syrians – about a third of the country’s prewar population – are living as refugees or asylum-seekers outside their home country, with almost 3.7 million now in Turkey. An additional 6.8 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes but are living elsewhere in the country – meaning the civil war has uprooted about two-thirds of Syria’s entire population.

Afghanistan, which has been at war either with itself or with outside forces for more than four decades, has had more than 2 million refugees every year since 1981. The peak year was 1990, after Soviet troops had withdrawn from the country and the USSR-backed government was battling to hang onto power against a coalition of mujahedeen groups. That year, more than half the country’s total estimated population – 6.3 million people – were listed as refugees.

Venezuela has also seen massive population outflows over the past several years as the country’s economy has all but collapsed, its government has cracked down on dissent, and opposition efforts to unseat President Nicolas Maduro’s government have stalled. According to the UNHCR, more than 5 million Venezuelans are refugees in other countries, are seeking asylum, or have been otherwise displaced abroad – all told, about 15% of the current estimated population.

New York & SIAEA With the Consulate General of India In New York Celebrate Culture of India at Virtual Holi Festival GOPIO

Holi is the national festival of colors, celebrated across India in different forms and traditions. The celebration of this colorful festival brings people of different faiths with diverse socio-political ideologies closer.

This message of unity in diversity was shared by the Chief Guest, India’s Consul General in New York, Randhirkumar Jaiswal during the annual Holi celebrations organized by GOPIO New York Chapter in collaboration with the Society of Indo-American Engineers Architects (SIAEA) in collaboration with the Consulate General of India In New York on Sunday, March 20th, 2022.

Chief guest and honored distinguished guests speakers of the event:

In his eloquent address to the Diaspora community, Ambassador Jaiswal greeted the participants from around the world on the occasion of Holi Festival, who had joined from all major continents on Earth, as hundreds of Indian Diaspora members came together virtually to celebrate the Festival of Holi. While describing the historical and symbolic traditions of the festival of Holi, the veteran diplomat said, “Holi is a very beautiful festival of color. A festival that helps us welcome spring. Holi has several connotations, social, religious, political, and rhythmic with nature. Holi is about togetherness, unity and oneness, and holding hands together, celebrating the goodness and kindness of humanity,” he said. He urged the participants to take a moment out to pray for peace.

Congressman Tom Suozzi of Long Island, NY greeted the community with “Holi Mubarak” to all. Describing Holi as an exciting time for all, a great friend of India and the Indian American community, Rep. Suozzi said, “It’s great to be with you all to celebrate the festival of Holi, which reminds us of all that Spring is in the air as the flowers start blooming and we await new life and happiness. Thank you for your continued support, and I will do everything in my power to represent the Indian American community in Long Island at the US Congress and the interests of India.” Recalling his childhood as a first generation Irish American, he was taught to remember the 3 Is, Ireland, Italy, and Israel, and now, “There are for Is: Ireland, Italy, Israel and India.”

In her message, NY Senator Ana Kaplan, greeted the Indian community in New York a very Happy Holi. She praised the contributions and achievements of the Indian American community. She recalled how in her own tradition; her community celebrates the arrival of the Spring. “New York is a melting pot that brings people of all faiths and of all backgrounds,” she said, and wished, May all of us experience peace, overcoming all hurdles on the way.”

New York Senator Kevin Thomas shared with the audience how he has made it a point to bring Holi and other Indian festivals to the New York State Chambers, distributing Samosas and sweets to the members of the elected officials in Albany. He invited GOPIO to join him and other elected officials in Albany to celebrate Holi in person, after having to celebrate Holi virtually in the past 2 years due to Covid. “We hope, this is the last of all virtual celebrations,” he said, and hoped that “From now on, we can celebrate the festivities in person, meeting one another, joining our hands together,” he said.

The colorful Holi celebrations depicting the rich cultural heritage of India, organized by the GOPIO New York, the first Chapter of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, showcased the rich, colorful, and vibrant traditions of India, bringing them at the doorsteps of every household, as the audience from around the world were entertained with mesmerizing music, scintillating dance performances, and inspiring speeches.

Lal Motwani, Chairman of GOPIO New York and Executive Trustee of GOPIO International, and former president of the SIAEA, in his address, greeted Honorable India’s Consul General of New York, RandhirKumar Jaiswal and officials, members and the leaders of GOPIO from around the world who have joined virtually to celebrate the colorful festival of Holi.

“The vibrancy of colors is something that brings in a lot of positivity in our lives and Holi being the festival of colors is actually a day worth rejoicing,” Motwani said. “Holi is considered as one of the most revered and celebrated festivals of India and it is celebrated in almost every part of India, transcending every region, and people of all faiths, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsees, Buddhists, and Jains. It represents the uniqueness of Indian culture as we, from all backgrounds stand united to welcome Spring, as Mother Nature breathes freshness into our lives and that of every living creature on Earth. Welcome to each and every one of you and wishing you and your families A VERY HAPPY HOLI!”

Ketan Shah, President of SIAEA served as co-emcee and introduced the speakers, executive team of GOPIO and SIAEA boards at the event and thanked the several sponsors who made the event successful by their financial support. Major sponsors among all are ICC (Grand Sponsor), Monpat Construction and Nadiad Construction (GOLD Sponsors), Amil Patel, SIAEA president-elect, Gary Wowk Founder of K Construction, Bina Sabapathy, Navneet Kothari, Dhiraj Ahuja were among the SILVER sponsors. Swathi and Aaishwariya Gulani, Miss India USA 2020 were master emcees who gracefully presented the cultural part of the program. Dharmatma Saran of the Miss India Worldwide Pageants coordinated the cultural extravaganza. Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of GOPIO International in his greetings to the community on the occasion of Holi, complemented GOPIO New York and SIAEA for hosting the Holi celebrations.

Second-generation Indian Americans, including a 16-yr old Aditi shared with the audience their perspectives, experiences of celebrating Holi and what it meant for them.  A beautiful Hindi poem on Holi composed and narrated by Anju and Sneha Singhi, a young artist was appreciated by one and all. Members of the dance troupe led by Staya Narayn Charka of the Ananda Ashram performed Kathakali, reliving the stories from the Indian Epic, Mahabharat. Navya Paingoal, Renu Kundem, and Michelle Sadat a fine vocalist also delighted the event with their beautiful singing.

A live Bollywood medley by Anwar Hussain and friends from Jaipur, India representing a family of 12 generations serving the royals, was much appreciated, and loved by all. Begum of Bollywood Maharaja from Jaipur, a famous singer who is the 1st woman from her community to perform publicly, mesmerized the audience with her beautiful voice. She was recently honored by the President of India for her contributions to art and culture.

Miss Teen India Sidhya Ganesh from the state of Washington delighted the audience with a live Holi Dance. The Chander family consisting of Anil, Harish, Gopi Arti Raj presented a Bollywood Medley, mesmerizing the audience with their beautiful voice singing some of the very popular numbers from the evergreen Hindi movies.  Dinesh Mirchandani, a founder, and CEO of Sargam Music Academy delighted the occasion with his classical vocal singing.

Anindita Nanda, a classical dancer and choreographer, who has presented and produced over 500 shows in the past two decades and a scientist in Pharma from Danbury CT presented Ganapathi Stothram and a Bharatnatyam Pallavi. A much sought-after touring artist, Anindita is regularly presented by Embassies, Museums, Universities, Libraries, Schools and Cultural Institutions across the United States, Europe, South America, and India. She is the founder and director of Sur-Taal, and She teaches in CT, NYC, Boston, West Coast, Germany, and Rome.

Beena Kothari, a prominent community leader and GOPIO – NY President poetically described the importance of Holi and served as an emcee of the event. Holi has become known as India’s most vivid, joyous festival.  Holi is being celebrated in the Indian subcontinent for centuries, with poems documenting celebrations dating back to the 4th century CE. It marks the beginning of spring after a long winter, symbolic of the triumph of good over evil. It is celebrated in March, corresponding to the Hindu calendar month of Phalguna. On the eve of the festival, large pyres are lit in many parts of India to signify the burning of evil spirits.

Talented Performers of the event:

In the end, Ketan Shah, Co-host and president of SIAEA thanked all Honorable guests, dignitaries, Performers, Participants, Viewers, Sponsors, and executive committees of both GOPIO-NY and SIAEA.

Shree Saini Crowned First Runner-Up At Miss World Pageant

Shree Saini, a former Miss India USA and Miss India Worldwide, has been crowned as the first runner-up at 70th edition of the Miss World 2021 pageant held in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the Coca-Cola Music Hall, on Wednesday, March 16th, 2022. The 26-year-old Ludhiana-born Indian American represented the United States at the beauty pageant.

Karolina Bielawska of Poland was crowned Miss World 2021, which was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Karolina is currently pursuing her Master’s in Management and hopes to get a PhD too, according to the Miss World organization.

Introducing the winners, Miss World organization tweeted: “Our newly crowned Miss World Karolina Bielawska from Poland with 1st Runner Up Shree Saini from US 2nd Runner up Olivia Yace from Côte d’Ivoire.”

Toni-Ann Singh, Miss World 2020, also graced the event by performing a special number ‘The Prayer’ to show her support for Ukraine in the midst of its conflict with Russia. “Our current Miss World Toni-Ann Singh performs ‘The Prayer’ as we light candles around the world to stand with Ukraine. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house #mwcandlesforukraine.” tweeted from Miss World’s handle.

Beautiful, compassionate, talented, ambitious, gentle, humble, determined and dedicated to achieving the lofty goals in life, she has set before herself at a very young age, Shree Saini is a woman with a golden heart.

Shree Saini is from Punjab’s Ludhiana, but moved to Washington, DC with her family when she was five. Shree grew up in Moses Lake in Washington state, has been living with a pacemaker since the age of 12. With a heartbeat rate of 20 per minute, doctors ruled her out for her first love — ballet. But, literally dancing against all odds, Saini became a trained ballerina and has been accepted as a trainee by the prestigious Joffrey Ballet, based out of Chicago.

The story of Shree is one of resilience over adversities that would daunt even the sturdiest individuals. In October 2019, Saini collapsed right before the final night of the Miss World America competition, where she eventually got to wear the crown, which she accepted from Miss World 1997 Diana Hayden.

Taking to Instagram that evening, Saini’s mother, Ekta Saini, said that doctors had kept her daughter on “cardiac arrest watch” because just 1 per cent of individuals around the world get a pacemaker implant. Undeterred by the episode, Saini went on to be crowned Miss World America 2020.

Before she left for Miss World earlier this month, Saini shared a “global message of hope and resilience” in which spoke about how she survived a “major rollover car accident that left my face with bleeding wounds” while she was still in university.

Recalling that horrific episode, Saini wrote: “I no longer had my face. I couldn’t even recognise myself. I couldn’t even cry because my tears would burn as they would pass down my wounds. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever endured.”

The Instagram post, which went viral after Saini became the first runner-up at Miss World 2021, concluded with her urging her social media followers “to keep being solution-oriented … to never lose sight of hope … to have a possibility mindset … and to apply solutions to everyday difficulties”.

Shree was crowned Miss World America 2021 in Los Angeles, CA on Saturday, October 2nd, 2021. Diana Hayden crowned Shree Saini, who is also the first Indian-origin contestant to represent America on a global stage. “I am happy and quite nervous. I can’t express my feelings (in words). All the credit goes to my parents, especially my mother because of whose support I am here. Thank you Miss World America for this honor,” Shree Saini said in her statement, after the crowning moment. Saini wrote on her Instagram, “I am the first American of Indian origin and first Asian to be crowned Miss World America.”

An advocate for heart health, Saini has had a permanent pacemaker since she was 12 and overcame a major car accident which left her with burns all over her face. But she rarely if ever lets any of that hold her back or define her.

Shree Saini, who has been recognized by several organizations and states and world renowned persons for her work and is aspiring to be an actor, told this writer during a recent interview “I am now “Miss World America Washington,” which is preliminary to Miss World America and Miss World! Miss World Titles have been won by Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra. It’s the largest and the most philanthropic pageant, having raised 1.3 billion dollars for charities around the world. And I want to promote the many charitable initiatives this noble organization does all around the world.”

The official Instagram handle of Miss World America shared the news with a caption that read as, “Shree, who is currently Miss World America Washington, also holds the prestigious position of “MWA National Beauty with a Purpose Ambassador,” a position she earned by working tirelessly to help those less fortunate and in need. Among her many accomplishments, her work has been recognized by UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, Susan G Komen, and many others. We are certain Shree will continue to immaculately embody Beauty With A Purpose, and no doubt will be successful in raising awareness and attention to the Miss World America mission. Stay tuned and follow the Miss World America 2021 journey!”

Shree Saini has also been crowned Miss India Worldwide 2018 at a pageant held in the Fords City of New Jersey. “My dance journey began when I was only 3 years old, but a substantial part of my dance journey was filled with both physical and emotional hardships. When I was 12, I was diagnosed with a complete heart block. I had to get a pacemaker surgery. The average age of a pacemaker recipient is age 80. Cardiologists told me I could never dance again,” Shree had noted on her social media.

Instead of giving up, Shree Saini went back to dance class with her left arm tied up in a cast and practiced up to 6 hours a day in order to regain her strength. Saini noted on media that even though “dance is a very competitive, cut-throat, high stakes sport”, she wants to “encourage teachers, students, parents to always be uplifting, emphatic, especially when it’s difficult. Real Love takes courage.”

Saini, who has studied at Harvard, has been trained in acting at the Yale actors conservatory. The Punjab native, who moved to Washington State when she was seven, experienced hardships while in high school, where she was bullied. For years, she said, she felt like an outcast at school for being a person of color. Shree has created an app on emotional heath at Stanford University. She has given hundreds of presentations in over 80 cities and six countries and written about 400 articles in newspapers on emotional fitness, via her non-profit shareesaini.org.

Shree says, “The best award is knowing that YOU made a POSITIVE difference in someone else’s life. A girl recently approached me after a talk and started crying. She mentioned that she had followed my journey for a while and felt encouraged to pursue her dreams, despite obstacles. I gave her a big HUG and started to tear up as well. WOW. Your positive words and actions do make a positive difference. Keep being EXTRA LOVING AND ENCOURAGING.

Being uprooted from one’s culture and dear ones was undoubtedly a major challenge. She had to experience hardships while in high school, where she was bullied. Young Shree fought bravely a heart ailment which required her to use a pacemaker. Shree, who had a pacemaker implanted at the age of 12 and was told that she would never be able to dance, is an inspiration for all. “I practice dance almost every day for several hours,” Shree says, pointing to the pacemaker she carries with her all the time.

After doctors diagnosed her with a congenital heart defect at the age of 12, Saini recalls how she struggled to adapt to the life-changing situation of needing a pacemaker while still in middle school, especially when other students did not treat her kindly as a result. “I truly believe your legacy is defined by how you make others feel and the positive difference you make in your lifetime,” said Shree, who started her non-profit organization, when she was 15. Shree said it was her dream to compete for a world title, which was started when she was in the elementary school.

“I have been the target of brutal emotional bullying. I was ridiculed in the most subtle ways, which is why I so often talk about ‘nonverbal’ bullying. For example, there were many instances where I was left out of events or edited out of pictures, and daily ‘whispered about’ by others. As a result of this treatment, there were many times when I would cry in my school’s restrooms or come home in tears after dance class… yet I persevered.

“My family helped me endure,” she explains. “My mom said, ‘the way people treat you has nothing to do with you, but has everything to do with them.’ She empowered me to step up and be even more compassionate towards those who hurt me, and to never give up on my true belief in always being kind.”

In order to reprogram her brain towards more positive thoughts and reach an understanding of how she could find inner peace in spite of all the negativity, she read extensively. “I read books and essays on achieving a more powerful mindset, responding to acts of hate with compassion, and the true value of emotional fitness and what can be done to address the lack of education around it. From what I have learned, I have formed my personal mantra: ‘Giving powerful responses to life’s struggles while being a positive contributor to every situation.’”

After dealing with her own personal experiences, Saini penciled her thoughts in a journal, which she said helped change her from a victim to an empowered young woman. The journals in her diary turned to newspaper clippings in local papers in Washington. “In a society mainly obsessed with physical fitness, emotional problems are dismissed,” noted the young activist. “Emotional well-being is necessary to have a healthy body and mind,” she says.

These experiences did not deter young Shree from pursuing her life’s mission.  “My journey went from a silent sufferer to a bitter person and finally an enabled victor,” she says. “If anything, the physical challenges and social pressures fueled her – all the way to the Joffrey Ballet and beyond, including winning the title of Miss India USA.”

Shree gives credit to her parents, Sanjay and Ekta Saini, who have not only supported her dreams, but have gone beyond to help her succeed at every step of the way. Pointing to her mother, Ekta, Shree says, “My mother is my role model, who has been with me, supported me and have encouraged me to work hard and realize my dreams.”

Regarding her future goals and ambitions, Shree is candid about her choices. If good offers come her way, Shree is open to acting in movies, whether it be in Bollywood or Hollywood. Another effective way to showcase her talents and still more importantly, another way to champion and spread her message for a better, just and peaceful world. “Meanwhile, I want to continue working on my nonprofit and become an ambassador of emotional health by continuing to visit as many places as possible, spreading my positive message of hope,” Saini says.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im7eb8b68Ek

How Americans Have Adopted — And Adapted — The Indian Festival Of Holi

The arrival of spring always brings sweet memories from my childhood in India of Holi: the sound of drumbeats and people dancing merrily in the streets, bodies smeared with a multitude of colors. In our home, buckets filled with wet colors would be kept ready to be poured on friends, family and neighbors, who would walk in with their own fistfuls of colors. The visitors were served freshly prepared sweets and savories from my mother’s kitchen along with a delightful almond drink, suffused with saffron.

Traditionally celebrated on the last full moon in the lunar month of Phalguna, which falls this year on Friday (March 18), Holi commemorates the triumph of good over evil. In Hindu mythology the demon king Hiranyakashipu commands his subjects to acknowledge him as the supreme God, but his son Prahalada, a devotee of the god Vishnu, refuses. In a rage Hiranyakashipu gives his sister, Holika, a protective cloak and instructs her to take Prahalada in her lap and sit on a burning pyre.

As Prahalada chants Vishnu’s name, the cloak flies off Holika and wraps around him. Holika is charred to death, while Prahalada remains unharmed.

In different regions of India, it comes with different rituals and meanings. Some light a bonfire on the evening before, while elsewhere Holi is a celebration of love honoring the divine love of Lord Krishna and Radha. With its fun and brightness, the festival has long since become a secular celebration — not unlike the West’s Christmas.

But with the Indian diaspora, Holi has gone global, adapting to local conditions and sensibilities. Deep in Mormon Utah, Salt Lake City’s Holi celebration, organized by ISKCON — the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (more familiarly known as the Hare Krishnas) — draws a crowd of around 25,000 people for a ticketed event held over two days (March 26 and 27 this year.) Holi celebrations in other cities have become highly commercialized, with food, yoga classes and rock bands.

“When I was a child growing up in Boise, Idaho, my parents organized the Holi festival,” said Ravi Gupta, a scholar of religious studies at Utah State University, “About 25 Indian families and a couple of other friends would turn up. But in past one or two decades, Holi has gone beyond that demographic. It has been an opportunity to involve and engage other communities.”

Caru Das, director of the Krishna Temple, said that after the first celebrations started at the temple in 1995, festivities soon moved outdoors to accommodate a rock band, and more people started to come as word got around.

The ritual of the burning of Holika was soon deemed too risky to be incorporated into an American environment and was eventually dropped. And unlike celebrations in India, color is not thrown on unsuspecting people in the street. In Salt Lake City, “color throws,” which may not be appreciated by unsuspecting passersby, are tightly scheduled for noon and 4 p.m., and no wet colors are allowed. “The play gets more choreographed,” said Gupta.

But the adaptations are seen by many as very much in keeping with the richness of the Hindu tradition, in which adherents may hold multiple beliefs and interpretations. The Salt Lake City event aims to appeal to all, irrespective of their religious, atheistic or spiritual but not religious beliefs.

Certainly, there is a loss of the cultural legacy of Holi. The singing of “kirtans,” Das told me, is unlike anything that I would be familiar with. In the Hindu tradition, a kirtan involves chanting a religious text, usually accompanied by a harmonium or a mridangam, instruments with a mellow beat. Salt Lake’s “kirtan” is a high energy rock song that the crowd greets with Bollywood-style dancing.

“It’s a way of introducing people to kirtan who have never experienced it before. Even atheists have a good time. Everyone enjoys friendliness and being in a community,” said Das. About half, he reckons, are Mormons.

Indians too are adapting Holi. Until a few decades ago, the celebration was limited to the northern states. Now, it’s becoming a pan-Indian festival.

Said Vasudha Narayanan, scholar of Hinduism at University of Florida, “When I was growing up, no one in southern India knew about Holi.” Now, with more people moving south and the flow of information through the internet, she said, Holi celebrations are common in southern India as well. “The thing about India is this: If one story is good, another is better,” Narayanan said.

Hindu social justice activists and organizations have come to use the occasion to condemn misogyny and caste system, in which, they say the Holika story is rooted. Sadhana, a coalition of progressive Hindus, organizes the “Holi against Hindutva,” an event to protest persecution of religious minorities in India.

As more people adopt Holi, it has become a moveable feast. At some U.S. Hindu temples, a religious ritual may be celebrated on Holi proper, but larger festivities may take place over a weekend; the Indian diaspora comes together to worship all the deities in the temple, and any differences of beliefs are put aside, said Balaji Sudabattula, an official of the Ganesha Hindu Temple in Salt Lake.

Other cities may decide to have celebrations even later, when the weather gets warmer. Las Vegas will be celebrating on April 16, Gupta’s temple on June 11.

Religious practices go through change and transformation. Unanchored from its Indian context, Holi has become a way for one community to reach out to another. The American festival of colors has captured something essential to the Hindu original: a time to burn one’s inner demons and find joy with everyone, without any barriers or distinctions.

War On Ukraine Also An Assault On World’s Most Vulnerable People & Countries

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations: Addressing the Press on the war in Ukraine

Ukraine is on fire. The country is being decimated before the eyes of the world. The impact on civilians is reaching terrifying proportions.

Countless innocent people – including women and children – have been killed. After being hit by Russian forces, roads, airports and schools lie in ruins.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 24 health facilities have suffered attacks. Hundreds of thousands of people are without water or electricity. With each passing hour, two things are increasingly clear:

First — it keeps getting worse. Second — whatever the outcome, this war will have no winners, only losers.

The United Nations and humanitarian partners are working to ensure safe passage from besieged areas and to provide aid where security permits. More than 600,000 people have received some form of aid.

As millions of people in Ukraine face hunger and dwindling supplies of water and medicine, I am announcing today that the United Nations will allocate a further $40 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to ramp up vital assistance to reach the most vulnerable, as we wait for the nations to come.

This funding will help get critical supplies of food, water, medicines, and other lifesaving aid into the country, as well as provide cash assistance to the needy.

But the avenues in and out of encircled cities are more precarious by the day. I underscore the crucial importance of respecting international humanitarian law. At least 1.9 million people are displaced inside the country, and growing numbers are escaping across borders.

I am deeply grateful for the solidarity of Ukraine’s neighbours and other host countries, who have taken in more than 2.8 million refugees in the past two weeks. The vast majority of those making the treacherous journey are women and children who are increasingly vulnerable.

For predators and human traffickers, war is not a tragedy. It is an opportunity. And women and children are the targets. They need safety and support every step of the way.

I will continue to highlight the desperate plight of the people of Ukraine as I am doing again today.

Yet there is another dimension of this conflict that gets obscured. This war goes far beyond Ukraine.
It is also an assault on the world’s most vulnerable people and countries.

While war rains over Ukraine, a sword of Damocles hangs over the global economy – especially in the developing world. Even before the conflict, developing countries were struggling to recover from the pandemic – with record inflation, rising interest rates and looming debt burdens.

Their ability to respond has been erased by exponential increases in the cost of financing. Now their breadbasket is being bombed.

Russia and Ukraine represent more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and about 30 percent of the world’s wheat. Ukraine alone provides more than half of the World Food Programme’s wheat supply.

Food, fuel and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing. Supply chains are being disrupted. And the costs and delays of transportation of imported goods – when available – are at record levels. All of this is hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe.

Grain prices have already exceeded those at the start of the Arab Spring and the food riots of 2007-2008. The FAO’s global food prices index is at its highest level ever.

Forty-five African and least developed countries import at least one-third of their wheat from Ukraine [or] Russia – 18 of those countries import at least 50 percent. This includes countries like Burkina Faso, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

We must do everything possible to avert a hurricane of hunger and a meltdown of the global food system. In addition, we are seeing clear evidence of this war draining resources and attention from other trouble-spots in desperate need.

I renew my appeal for countries to find creative ways to finance increased humanitarian and development recovery needs worldwide, and to give generously and to immediately release pledged funds. My plea to leaders is to resist the temptation of increasing military budgets at the expense of Official Development Assistance and climate action.

In a word, developing countries are getting pummeled. They face a cascade of crises – beyond the Ukraine war, we cannot forget COVID and the impacts of climate change – in particular, drought.

Against the backdrop of these immense inter-connected challenges, I am announcing today the establishment of a Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance in the UN Secretariat.

I have also asked the Deputy Secretary-General to lead an inter-agency steering committee with partners to oversee this effort. In the coming days, we will be consulting with Member States willing to champion the actions needed to carry forward the global emergency response that will be required for these looming crises.

Make no mistake: everyday people, especially women and children, will bear the brunt of this unfolding tragedy. The war also shows how the global addiction to fossil fuels is placing energy security, climate action and the entire global economy at the mercy of geopolitics.

Finally, further escalation of the war, whether by accident or design, threatens all of humanity. Raising the alert of Russian nuclear forces is a bone-chilling development.

The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility. The security and safety of nuclear facilities must also be preserved.

It’s time to stop the horror unleashed on the people of Ukraine and get on the path of diplomacy and peace. I have been in close contact with a number of countries – including China, France, Germany, India, Israel and Turkey – on mediation efforts to bring an end to this war.

The appeals for peace must be heard. This tragedy must stop. It is never too late for diplomacy and dialogue.

We need an immediate cessation of hostilities and serious negotiations based on the principles of the UN Charter and international law.

We need peace. Peace for the people of Ukraine. Peace for the world.

We need peace now.

Finland Ranks First In The World Happiness Report

For the fifth year in a row, Finland has topped the rankings of the World Happiness Report. Aalto University experts are available to comment on what happiness means in this context and how this small country ensures its residents’ well-being.

Finland shares a 1,340 kilometer border with Russia. Besides separating the European Union country from its neighbor, the border has also marked a grim reality: the largest happiness divide in Europe, with the happiest country alongside one of the unhappiest.

‘Other countries outside of the Nordics, like Canada, New Zealand and Netherlands have started examining wellbeing more closely to better understand what factors explain why some citizens are happy and some not. Wellbeing is very multi-layered. First, of course, you need to have your basic needs met. We might take food, shelter, and clean drinking water as self-evident, but if you suddenly lose them – like many civilians in Ukraine right now – life becomes a struggle. It’s much easier to think about higher needs, such as self-expression, when you can take your survival relatively for granted,’ says Frank Martela, an expert on the basis of Finland’s happiness.

‘Research shows that high national ranking on these surveys is not so much about culture,’ Martela notes. ‘It’s more about how a country’s institutions take care of their people – this leads to higher ratings of life satisfaction.’

Smart urban planning is part of how Finland promotes satisfaction and well-being. Access to green spaces reduces stress and promotes physical activity, and an environment of trust means that kids can move around independently and adults can feel safe and secure. Marketta Kyttä, professor of land use planning, says ‘a person’s environment plays a big role in their happiness, which makes the topic of health promotion in cities very important. It’s closely related to social sustainability and whether you feel connected to your community.’

Much of Finland’s success is underpinned by an effective system of progressive taxation, explains Timo Viherkenttä, a professor of practice in law and taxation. ‘Taxation – there’s two sides of the coin. It’s not a question of whether Finns are masochists and want to pay more. Finns get more social structure and safety with the higher taxes they pay. Nevertheless, we have to be vigilant that our tax euros are being spent efficiently,’ Viherkenttä says.

‘I think that health is a major factor in happiness. In Finland there’s always been heavy discussion around how to improve our healthcare and education systems – we prioritise these key initiatives so they’re not left behind,’ he says.

Aalto University experts are available to comment on following themes:

Measuring and maintaining well-being

Frank Martela is a philosopher and researcher of psychology specialized in meaningfulness, happiness, and how organizations and countries can unleash human potential. His book A Wonderful Life – Insights on Finding a Meaningful Experience (HarperCollins 2020) has been translated into 24 languages, including French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Korean, and Indonesian.

Martela has become one of the key experts on why Finland is so happy. He has written about the topic for Scientific American Observer and co-authored a chapter on the Nordic countries for the 2020 Word Happiness Report. Martela has been interviewed by The New York Times, Vice News, Le Monde, and the Monocle Observer. He earned his first PhD in organizational research (Aalto University, 2012) and his second PhD in practical philosophy (University of Helsinki, 2019).

Urban planning to make people feel healthy and safe

Marketta Kyttä, professor of land use planning, studies child- and human-friendly environments, environments that promote wellbeing and health, urban lifestyles, perceived safety, as well as new methods for public participation. Her multidisciplinary research team is currently focused on the place-based, person-environment research with public participation, using geographic information system methodology. The team has also worked on numerous real-life public participation projects in Finnish cities and abroad.

High rewards from high taxes

Timo Viherkenttä is a professor of business law with extensive experience in tax law and the economy. He was the CEO of the State Pension Fund of Finland (2015-2020), and has also served as Justice of the Supreme Administrative Court, as well as Director General of the Budget Department at the Finnish Ministry of Finance.

Oscar-Nominated Smriti Mundhra Gets DGA Award Episode On Homelessness

Oscar-nominated Indian-American filmmaker Smriti Mundhra took home the first award — for the best children’s program — at the 74th Directors Guild of America Awards (DGA Awards) on Saturday night (U.S. Pacific Time).

It was presented by Pamela Adlon, creator and star of the comedy-drama series ‘Better Things’ to Mundhra for the ‘Shelter’ episode of HBO Max’s series, ‘Through Our Eyes’, reports ‘Deadline’.

‘Through Our Eyes’ is an inspiring journey into the lives of American families, from the perspective of children as they navigate formidable yet all-too-common challenges along with parents and siblings.

The four-part gritty docu-series captures the innocence of childhood and the strength of perseverance in the face of parental incarceration, climate displacement, the wounds of war, and homelessness (the last being the subject of Mundhra’s award-winning episode).

To Indian viewers, Mundhra is better-known as the maker of the Netflix series ‘Indian Matchmaking’ presented by Sima Taparia.

Mundhra shared the Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival for her first feature documentary film, ‘A Suitable Girl’, with her co-director Sarita Khurana.

She and co-director Sami Khan got an Oscar nomination in 2020 for her documentary, ‘St Louis Superman’, on the activist, battle rapper and former politician Bruce Franks, Jr.

Mundhra, incidentally, is the daughter of the late Indian American filmmaker Jag Mundhra, who is still remembered for ‘Kamla’ (1984), starring Deepti Naval, Shabana Azmi and Marc Zuber, which centered around a celebrated journalistic expose, and the ‘Kama Sutra’ movies — ‘The Perfumed Garden’ and ‘Monsoon’.

Dr. Ashish Jha Appointed By Biden To Lead US Efforts On Covid

President Joe Biden announced on March 17, 2022 that he is appointing Indian-American physician, Dr. Ashish Jha as the “perfect person” to lead the White House Covid national initiative. Jeff Zients, who currently leads the effort is stepping down.

“To lead this effort, I am excited to name Dr. Ashish Jha as the new White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator. Dr. Jha is one of the leading public health experts in America, and a well-known figure to many Americans from his wise and calming public presence. And as we enter a new moment in the pandemic – executing on my National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and managing the ongoing risks from COVID – Dr. Jha is the perfect person for the job,” Biden said in a statement which also announced the departure of Zients.

“I appreciate both Jeff and Dr. Jha for working closely to ensure a smooth transition, and I look forward to continued progress in the months ahead,” the President said. According to Brown University, where Dr. Jha is the Dean of the School of Public Health, he will be taking a short-term leave for the temporary special assignment.

A globally recognized expert on pandemic preparedness and response as well as on health policy research and practice, Jha is the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, and is one of the most popular experts that the media reaches out to for explaining the Covid pandemic and the efforts to control it.

Dr. Jha has taken up the new position at the request of President Biden, a press release from Brown University noted. Jha was born in Pursaulia, Bihar in 1970. He went to Canada when he was 9, and then to the U.S. in 1983. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Columbia University and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School.

In a series of tweets, Jha noted, “On a personal note – For a poor immigrant kid who left India not speaking a word of English And found in America a nation willing to embrace me as one of her own I am deeply honored for this chance to serve this country I love And grateful to a President for the opportunity.”

Always a cautious voice on numerous media outlets where he was interviewed over the last two years, Jha Tweeted after his White House appointment, “So, as they say… Some news – For all the progress we’ve made in this pandemic (and there is a lot) We still have important work to do to protect Americans’ lives and wellbeing So when @POTUS asked me to serve, I was honored to have the opportunity.”

Jha also warned, “We are not done We are very likely to see more surges of infections We may see more variants We can’t predict everything with certainty But we have to prepare to protect the American people whatever Mother Nature throws at us.”

In succeeding Zients, Jha will lead the response of the entire U.S. government to the COVID-19 pandemic, while also advancing the nation’s global health priorities and policies.

“For all the progress we’ve made in this pandemic (and there is a lot). We still have important work to do to protect Americans’ lives and well being. So when @POTUS asked me to serve, I was honoured to have the opportunity,” Jha said in a tweet.

He will be joining Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, National Drug Control Policy Director Rahul Gupta, and Center for Medicare Director Meena Seshamani at the higher echelons of US health care system.

Jha succeeds Jeff Zients, who is leaving the White House after 14 months during which two variants, Delta and Omicron, fueled a surge in Covid cases that the US struggled to contain. Zients leaves office with 65 per cent of Americans having received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine and nearly 77 per cent have been fully vaccinated with the seven-day average of infections plummeting from 806,851 in mid-January to 30,570 in mid-March.

Jha came to Brown from Harvard, where he was the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and the dean for Global Strategy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He had also served as the co-chair of the Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola, which examined the failure of the international community’s response to the disease.

Even while he was heading the Brown University’s School of Public Health, he continued to practice medicine at a hospital for ex-military members. During the Covid pandemic, he made frequent appearances on TV, wrote op-eds for leading newspapers and was often quoted by reporters.

The medical news website, STAT, called him “network TV’s everyman expert on Covid” with the qualities of a “telegenic phenom” and a “great communicator”. Zients was a businessman and a bureaucrat, unlike Jha who is a doctor.

The changeover to a doctor marks an inflexion point in the pandemic where the logistics of mass vaccination and testing are in place and the future task is to monitor and prepare for new variations or other developments.

After Two Long Years, COVID-19 Is No Longer #1 Concern For Americans

For what is likely the first time in two years, COVID-19 is no longer the primary concern among Americans, as the economy, inflation, and jobs (90%) and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (87%) are a higher concern than the virus (68%). Here what they are thinking:

Today, Americans find many daily activities not too, or not at all, risky anymore, such as eating or drinking inside a restaurant/bar (48%), working in-person without a mask (43%), shopping indoors with a mask (41%), and exercising maskless in a gym or a sports team (38%).

Replacing COVID in the news: (87%) of Americans consider Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the biggest news story in America right now, surpassing the COVID-19 news coverage of the past two years (v. COVID-19 being the biggest story: 13%).Replacing COVID in the news: (87%) of Americans consider Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the biggest news story in America right now, surpassing the COVID-19 news coverage of the past two years (v. COVID-19 being the biggest story: 13%).

Taking a mental break from COVID because, well, there could be another pandemic before we die: (69%) of Americans think it is likely that they will live through another pandemic in their lifetime (Gen Z: 56%, Millennial: 73%, Gen X: 78%, Boomer: 62%) and (27%) believe that COVID-19 news will dominate the news cycle again and (58%) could see it occur if something major happens such as a new, deadly variant arises.

Takeaway: After a roller-coaster of emotion, Americans have reached similar levels of pre-Delta optimism that the worst of COVID-19 is behind us (64%), however, diminishing news coverage and COVID-19 fatigue may prove concerning as European COVID-19 cases have begun rising again–such as in the UK two weeks after dropping mitigation measures.

In The Harris Poll Tracker (Week 107) fielded March 11th to 13th, 2022 among 2,000 U.S. adults, look at how Americans’ concerns have shifted away from COVID-19 and from Week 106 how younger consumers are engaging with international brands regularly. In addition, we cover other Harris Poll data detailing how Americans are packing their bags for summer vacations, how men are more interested in the future of the metaverse, and an industry snapshot of the health and personal care sector.

Lenovo Appoints Ajay Sehgal To Lead India Commercial Business

Global PC brand Lenovo has appointed Ajay Sehgal as the Executive Director for India commercial business. Based in Mumbai, Sehgal0 will be responsible for driving growth for the overall Lenovo India commercial PC and Smart Devices business.

“Companies large and small are accelerating their digital transformation, and are seeking trusted partners to help them navigate this exciting transition. I am confident that his experience will help take our commercial sales organization to the next level along our journey of service-led-transformation,” Shailendra Katyal, Managing Director, Lenovo India, said in a statement.

Prior to joining Lenovo, Sehgal worked with Vodafone as Executive Vice President, Enterprise Business. In previous roles, he has worked with HP India as well as with Xerox, and has handled multiple leadership positions across the PC and printing solutions businesses.

In Q4 2021, the overall India tablet market grew 31 per cent year-on-year, while for the entire year it grew 4 per cent YoY. Lenovo topped the tablet market in India, mainly driven by its enterprise tablet business.

Lenovo Tab M10 HD Tablet series garnered 32 per cent market share and primarily in the value for Money (Rs 7,000-Rs 25,000) segment.

Lenovo shipments recorded 23 per cent YoY growth in CY2021. The company has a strong offline play, catering to enterprise and consumer demand.

A New Monetary World Order As Russia Reels Under Sanctions

As US President Joe Biden unveiled new sanctions on Friday against Russia, he made it clear that the totality of the sanctions and export controls is “crushing the Russian economy”.

“The ruble has lost more than half its value. They tell me it takes about 200 rubles to equal 1 dollar these days. The Moscow stock exchange has been closed fully for two weeks because they know the moment it opens, it will probably collapse,” Biden said.

Credit rating agencies have downgraded Russia to ‘junk’ status.

The list of businesses and international corporations leaving Russia is growing by the day, Biden said while listing the stark consequences for Russia and its economy that have unfolded since the Ukraine war.

“We will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine. Direct confrontation between NATO and Russia is World War III, something we must strive to prevent,” Biden said on not sending troops to Ukraine.

“And we’re going to continue to squeeze (Vladimir) Putin. The G7 will seek to deny Russia the ability to borrow from leading multinational institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Putin is an aggressor… And Putin must pay the price,” Biden said.

Zoltan Pozsar of Credit Suisse said in a report, “We are witnessing the birth of Bretton Woods III – a new world (monetary) order centred around commodity-based currencies in the East that will likely weaken the Eurodollar system and also contribute to inflationary forces in the West.”

“A crisis is unfolding. A crisis of commodities. Commodities are collateral, and collateral is money, and this crisis is about the rising allure of outside money over inside money. Bretton Woods II was built on inside money, and its foundations crumbled a week ago when the G7 seized Russia’s FX reserves,” Credit Suisse said.

Pozsar said it is a perfect storm but that’s precisely what happens when the West sanctions the single-largest commodity producer of the world, which sells virtually everything.

“What we are seeing at the 50-year anniversary of the 1973 OPEC supply shock is something similar but substantially worse — the 2022 Russia supply shock, which isn’t driven by the supplier but the consumer.

“The aggressor in the geopolitical arena is being punished by sanctions, and sanctions-driven commodity price moves threaten financial stability in the West. The commodities market is much more financialised and leveraged today than it was during the 1973 OPEC supply crisis, and today’s Russian supply crisis is much bigger, much more broad-based, and much more correlated. It’s scarier,” Pozsar said.

There are Russian commodities that are collapsing in price and there are non-Russian commodities that are rallying — this rally is due to the 2022 Russia supply shock.

“It’s a buyers’ strike. Not a seller’s strike, to make things all the more absurd… Russian commodities today are like subprime CDOs were in 2008. Conversely, non-Russian commodities are like what US Treasury securities were back in 2008. One collapsing in price, and the other surging in price, with margin calls on both regardless of which side you are on,” he added.

The ban on technology exports to Russia, in response to the war in Ukraine, could backfire on global manufacturers of computer processors and semiconductors, as many crucial components for their production are made exclusively in Russia, an industry expert warned.

“The ban on finished products for Russia will result in a retaliatory ban on the supply of production components and will cause an acute shortage of microprocessors for the whole world. By comparison, the end-of-2021 supply disruption situation will appear relatively light,” Oleg Izumrudov, head of the Consortium of Russian Developers of Data Storage Systems (RosSHD), said, RT reported.

Following the sanctions, Russia may default on sovereign bonds for the first time since the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

A leading ratings agency has warned that Russia is soon likely to default on its debts, as it downgraded the country’s bonds further into ‘junk’ territory, BBC reported.

Fitch Ratings slashed its assessment of Russia to almost the bottom of its scale, just days after downgrading it from investment status.

If Russia does fail to make payments on its debt, it raises the possibility of the first major default on the country’s sovereign bonds since the wake of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, BBC reported.

It is the latest blow to the country’s creditworthiness in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. This week, Moscow said its bond payments may be affected by sanctions.

“The further ratcheting up of sanctions, and proposals that could limit trade in energy, increase the probability of a policy response by Russia that includes at least selective non-payment of its sovereign debt obligations,” Fitch said, BBC reported.

Removing Russian oil from the market would make energy prices skyrocket to over $300 per barrel of oil, Russia’s Deputy PM Aleksandr Novak said, adding that Russia is not dependent on the West and can “reroute” its supplies elsewhere.

The European officials are “once again seeking to put all the blame for their own recent energy policy shortfalls on Russia”, Novak told journalists, adding that “Russia has nothing to do with the current price hike on market volatility”, RT reported.

There are grave implications for food prices also. Energy and commodity prices-including wheat and other grains-have surged due to the war in Ukraine, adding to inflationary pressures from supply chain disruptions and the rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic, the IMF said.

Price shocks will have an impact worldwide, especially on poor households for whom food and fuel are a higher proportion of expenses.

Should the conflict escalate, the economic damage would be all the more devastating. The sanctions on Russia will also have a substantial impact on the global economy and financial markets, with significant spillovers to other countries, the IMF said.

In many countries, the crisis is creating an adverse shock for both inflation and activity, amid already elevated price pressures.

Added to that is the tensions around nuclear plants. Ukrainian intelligence has information that the Russian aggressors are preparing a terrorist attack on the “exclusion zone” in Chornobyl and plan to blame Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence officials said, “According to information available, Vladimir Putin has ordered the preparation of a terrorist attack on the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.”

The Russia-controlled Chornobyl nuclear power plant plans to create a man-made catastrophe, for which the occupiers will try to shift responsibility on Ukraine, Ukrayinska Pravda reported.

To make matters worse, Russia has accused US of backing biological laboratories on the territory of Ukraine, experiments were carried out with samples of coronavirus from bats, said the official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Major General Igor Konashenkov.

“In the biolaboratories created and funded in Ukraine, as the documents show, experiments were carried out with samples of bat coronavirus,” he said, RT reported.

Konashenkov said the department would soon publish another package of documents on secret military biological activities of the United States on the territory of Ukraine and present the results of their examination.

Credible Opposition In India: A Far Cry

The fact that the BJP managed to get into power in four Assembly elections out of five gave a jolt to the Opposition. It had hoped that lack of governance, anti-incumbency, politics of hatred and division, inflation, unemployment, and a poorly managed pandemic would relegate them into a corner. But precisely, the opposite happened.

India’s voters have changed. All these crucial issues did not weigh in during the polls. The most eloquent example is Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state. In rally after rally, the Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, said that this election would determine who would win — the Hindus or the Muslims. It was one of the most polarising elections in recent history. Hate speeches were the highlight of the campaign.

Journalists who traveled extensively into the Hindi heartland say that they found the voters constantly complaining about lack of jobs, high inflation, cooking gas, petrol prices, and many other issues. But when asked who they would vote for, their choice was unanimous: BJP. What was the rationale? They said that Modi was in for the big fight, so they wanted to support him and his party. What they meant by the big fight was Hindus versus Muslims.

Let us not miss this new political culture that has whipped India by storm. For the opposition to change the BJP narrative of Hindutva being supreme and the formation of what they call the Hindu Rashtra is not easy now as it has taken roots in the last seven years.

Even in a state like Kerala, where communalism could not be easily ignited, there are clear signs of how right-wing groups are growing. It is another story that the BJP has not been able to make electoral inroads. The party does not have a single Assembly seat or an MP in Lok Sabha.

No Opposition party in India, including the Congress, has organisational support like the BJP, which has the RSS, the VHP, Bajrang Dal, and numerous other organisations that work for it round-the-year, building grassroots and working on systematic propaganda.
Politics in India is also about perception. Look at what Modi has done with calibrated propaganda along with his leaders to show that no one else can succeed like them in politics and governance.

No more is it just caste groupings that are going to work. Nor is anti-incumbency a factor. Yogi Adityanath, Pinarayi Vijayan, Navin Patnaik, Arvind Kejriwal, and Mamata Banerjee have shown they can ride back to power again, reinforcing that good governance has a role to play in the future. Kerala has never seen a Chief Minister come up with a repeat performance. But, in the last elections, Vijayan broke that record primarily due to the excellent management of the pandemic and floods that ravaged Kerala despite little help from the Centre.

Is the Opposition Ready?

How is the Opposition planning to fight the BJP, which today is the wealthiest party with the enormity of funds no party can imagine? Elections in India demand hordes of cash. Most parties today are struggling to attract funds.

According to the Election Commission, more than Rs 6,500 crore was spent in elections between 2015 and 2020 by 18 political parties. These included seven national parties and seven regional parties. Rs 3,400 crore, or 52.3 percent, was spent on publicity alone.

Audit reports show that when it comes to election expenditure, the BJP spent over Rs 3,600 crore of the total election outlay by all 18 parties in five years. In contrast, the Indian National Congress spent over Rs 1,400 crore. While the BJP itself spent over 56 percent of the total amount, the Samajwadi Party spent 3.95 percent, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) spent 3.06 percent, Bahujan Samaj Party spent 2.04 percent, and the Trinamool Congress spent 1.83 percent. How are these parties ever going to catch up as election expenditures soar? The new norm is to advertise heavily and aggressively using digital media.

Look at the kind of digital reach that the party today has. When the Election Commission banned campaigning due to the Covid-19 protocol, parties like the Samajwadi Party in UP realised that they were checkmated by the digital reach of the BJP and were unable to match it.

According to the EC data, of the total electoral bonds sold in 2019-20, the BJP got over 75 percent, while the Congress could manage just 9 percent. Other parties like the Trinamool Congress, DMK, NCP, AAP, and RJD could mop comparatively minuscule amounts.

New Strategies Needed

The Congress decided to give tickets to women, but it could win just two seats; one was a female who had won numerous elections earlier. At one time, UP was a stronghold of Congress. Today, it has two seats in an Assembly of 403. It fielded 160 women out of its 401 candidates, something of a first in Indian elections, but only one of them won as she had won earlier too. What did Priyanka Gandhi, in-charge of the UP elections, expect in an intensely feudal and patriarchal state? So, strategies have to be dramatically different. It has to be workable to win elections and not just look politically correct.

Can the rag-tag Opposition of India take on the BJP in the next parliamentary elections? It indeed cannot if we take the current scenario into account. The Opposition is currently disunited, insecure, and has no shared vision that can even sound like an excellent alternative to the high-pitched BJP propaganda. More importantly, it does not have a single leader who has emerged with the personality that Indian voters would like to look at or trust. The Opposition has done little to catch the electorate’s imagination in the last seven years.

Which Opposition leader can carry disparate parties with different ideologies on one platform? They cannot agree even on a standard programme. All of them have burning ambitions and are vying for the top post.

Hurt and False Egos

Mamata Banerjee has been fearless and combative more than any other leader. She has made some feeble attempts at cobbling up an alternative front but has not succeeded. She does not get along with the Congress leadership, and it is well-known that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi do not want to give the leadership mantle to her.

Mamata did not even attend a recent meeting called by the Congress of Opposition leaders. She has said that Congress is no more able or fit to lead the Opposition in the country as it has lost credibility. The Congress did toy around with having a joint meeting with Opposition parties after the recent elections.

Still, even Mallikarjun Kharge, the Opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha, was apprehensive that some parties might not join and would send a wrong message about opposition unity. He is right as in the present circumstances, both TMC and AAP are eyeing the space of the Congress in various states wanting to capture it as they did successfully in West Bengal, Delhi, and Punjab. After the recent elections, Congress alleged that the TMC and AAP had split opposition votes in Goa, helping the BJP.

Many Congress leaders have joined the TMC, while others are now looking at AAP and assessing their future as politicians as India’s grand old party plummets to a new low. Mayawati, the Chief Minister of UP for four terms, chose not to campaign as she does. Her Bahujan Samaj Party was virtually non-existent in the high-decibel campaign. Political onlookers suspect that she had opted to become the B-Team of the BJP and help it win. They suspected that a deal was thrashed out between her and the BJP.

The BSP, which once ruled UP, got just one seat. Mayawati is ambitious, and in these circumstances, she will have to join the Opposition bandwagon though not much will come out of it as the BJP and the Samajwadi Party have made inroads into her traditional strongholds. The SP will now not want to do anything with her.

Just Regional Satraps

The Trinamool Congress is strong in West Bengal, but that is it. While it is a critical state that sends many MPs, the fact is that it has no significant presence anywhere. Mamata Banerjee also does not have the persona to emerge as a national leader. She is seen as an aggressive street fighter, but that is not enough. Not many regional leaders like her style of functioning.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has its presence only in Tamil Nadu. Though Stalin is surprising everyone with his astuteness and vision to change the future of Tamil Nadu, the fact is that he has no pan-India appeal. Nor has his party. At least the AAP and the TMC are trying to contest in other states to make a dent or impression. The TMC contested in Goa for the first time and managed to get 6 percent of the vote share.

The Telugu Desam Party also has its presence only in Andhra Pradesh and in Telangana. The same goes for the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, where it has developed strong roots in the last fifteen years. As the elections in Punjab demonstrated, the Shiromani Akali Dal, which once ruled Punjab, is a spent force and will make little difference. The RJD is also a regional party with its primary influence in Bihar and Jharkhand.

That leaves the Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar, a part of the ruling coalition in Maharashtra. It has grown in strength and has an influence also in some other states in the north-east. The Shiv Sena is not likely to ever join the BJP as a coalition partner as they have figured out that it would not get the space it deserves. They are a formidable force, and the BJP will have to fight hard to get back to Maharashtra.

Congress not a Force

Congress is no more seen as a party that can bind the Opposition. It is caught in the whirlpool of its own making. It does not have decisive leadership. It cannot even enforce discipline. It has not had a full-time president for a long time. Look at how the Congress chief in Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu, behaved throughout the campaign. He was virtually destroying what little support Congress had. He was not reprimanded or punished. Even after losing the election, he continued to work against his party’s interests. He has already started flirting with the AAP as he has no political future.

One would have expected Sonia Gandhi to step down from interim president, but the Congress Working Committee asked her to stay on as they had complete faith in her. The party has become a laughing stock, and no one seems to care. Gandhi’s loyalists attacked those who demanded inter-party democracy and elections along with restructuring. It will be surprising if the party does not split, as patience is dying among party workers who do not see any future.

How does Opposition unity work here in such a grim political situation? No one seems to understand that the only way to dislodge the BJP is to band together to form a genuine united front. It should be such that voters feel that there is a viable alternative. The BJP knows how weak the Opposition is today.

United Opposition a Must

Democracy can flourish only with a vibrant and robust Opposition fighting to protect the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. They should be guarding the rights of people. They should be raising their concerns and aspirations of the people to the government. They should be correcting the government’s flaws and scrutinising legislation and policies. It must hold the government accountable and play a vital role in various committees so that the powers do not steamroll whatever it wants or what its political agenda is dictating. In a way, the Opposition is an alternative government keeping an eye open for any discrepancy. It must be credible and not just hungry for power, as we see in India.

Many regional parties like the DMK, BJD, SP, NCP, TDP, RJD and some others may be able to win seats in the next parliamentary elections. Still, the moot question is whether they will be able to band together as one force with a joint programme that would force the electorate to think twice before voting the BJP back to power.

BJP Victories In India Polls Celebrated By NRIs

The umbrella organization Indian-American Community, along with numerous supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, celebrated the victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party in four out of the five states where elections were held. The event was held Sunday March 13, 2022, at Royal Albert’s Palace in Fords, N.J.

Addressing a large gathering chanting Bharat Mata ji Jai and Jai Shri Ram in New York Jagdish Sewhani President of The American India Public Affairs Committee and the Organizer of the BJP Victory Celebrations in New York thanked the voters of UP and other states for bringing back BJP in power in four states .This shows that today’s voter is smart , intelligent. They have totally rejected the politics of Dynasty and policy of appeasement corruption and voted for development, better Law and order.

It is a historical win for BJP in UP, where after 37 years voters have re-elected the same party back to Power, this shows peoples trust in Yogi ji and Modiji. This is an endorsement of Prime Minister Modiji’s pro poor, Pro Farmer and pro Development policy, the organizers said.

“We have won the Semifinals with Landslide because people have faith in Modi and I’m confident that Voters in Bharat will re-elect Narendra Modi in 2024 with much bigger margin,”  asserted Mr Sewhani.

The Prime Minister Modi since 2014 has been working relentlessly for making Bharat as Vishwaguru , because of Modiji today Bharat is moving in direction of Atmanirbhar Bharat in defense, High tech and other fields.

More than 100 million Farmers have benefited from PM Kisan yojana , , 89 million housewives benefited from PM Ujwala yojana and received free gas cylinders, millions of families got free Rashan  under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana  and more than 1.8 billion Vaccines shots were given said Sewhani. He thanked Prime Minister Modi for safely bringing back thousand of students from Ukraine. Narendra Modi is the world’s most popular leader. Today world is looking at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for solution and end war between Russia and Ukraine, said Mr Sewhani .

Dr Bhupi Patel  , Harry Brar , Animesh Goenka and others also spoke at Victory celebrations Padma Shri recipient Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of PWWM and ITV Gold, and several other speakers including Pramod Bhagat, Albert Jasani, as well as Dhiren Amin, Raj Pandya and Chandrakant Patel, to name just a few, expressed their joy about the election results calling it an endorsement of Prime Minister Modi’s policies and governance.

Indie Meme Film Festival Returns To Austin With A Lineup Boasting Diversity And Inclusiveness

Austin’s Premier South Asian Film Festival hosts its first in-person festival since the start of the pandemic, with films showcased in a hybrid format.

The Indie Meme Film Festival, Austin’s leading cinema event curating South Asian independent cinema, returns to movie theaters for the first time in two years. The festival, which was presented virtually in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, comes back in a hybrid format.

The festival will showcase nearly three dozen films from South Asian filmmakers, covering a variety of poignant topics. Each film tells a unique and diverse story of South Asian lives: a child’s struggle in remote India, an Iranian family seeking asylum in Europe, domestic abuse, alcoholism, mental health, patriarchy and colonialism.

Many of the films in this year’s festival focus on issues important to women, including sexuality, education and the family unit. Through it all, this year’s lineup is a testament to the importance of accepting people for who they are, and each story is told so that audiences of all backgrounds can relate.

In-person screenings will take place April 14-17 at Austin Film Society. Those wishing to watch the festival virtually will be able to stream films online April 22-24.

RK/RKAY is IMFF 2022’s centerpiece feature. The film tells the story of a filmmaker struggling to complete his latest creative endeavor. It stars veteran Indian actor-director Rajat Kapoor, who gained international acclaim as an abusive uncle in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding. Kapoor will attend IMFF 2022 from India and participate in a Q&A after the film screening.

Other feature films at IMFF 2022 include Barah x Barah Rehana, Bangla, Hit The Road, A Night of Knowing Nothing, Midwives, Last Film Show, I Am Belmaya, Any Day Now, Moshari, Lunana, Receiver and Biriyaani.

The Bengali action thriller Rehana makes its U.S. premiere at IMFF 2022. Abdullah Mohammed Saad directs this film about a medical college professor whose life descends into chaos after she witnesses an incident involving one of her students.

Cinematographer Sunny Lahiri will headline a Q&A session after the screening of Barah x Barah, which chronicles the life of a photographer who captures images of the dead in Varanasi, one of India’s oldest cities.

The festival’s diverse Shorts Program features 16 films: Bambirak, Blind Date, Baahar, Mono No Aware, Sheer Qorma, Miniaturist of Junagadh, My Mother’s Girlfriend, Kanya, U For Usha, Testimony of Ana, Not Today, Wade, Chai, An Early Spring, A Coup, An Early Spring, Turning Point and Cycle.

Bahaar, a 14-minute short directed by Prakshi Malik, is a local project out of The University of Texas at Austin that was awarded grant from Austin Film Society. The film tells the story of a student dealing with disaster after being accepted into the boarding school of her dreams.

Making its North American premiere is A Coup, an 8-minute short from Pakistan. Areeba Naveed’s film narrates the story of a young girl who comes out, and a psychiatrist’s attempt to intervene.

Also coming to IMFF 2022 is the German-Afghan production Bambirak, winner of the Best International Fiction Award at 2021’s Sundance Film Festival. Bambirak is the story of a single dad and his daughter trying to establish their life in a new country. Tickets are $65 for Indie Meme members and $85 for non-members. The price is the same for in-person or virtual screenings. Sponsors for this year’s event include H-E-B, Waterloo Greenway, The Austin Chronicle and Austin Film Society.

Indie Meme was founded in 2013 and is Austin’s dedicated cinematic organization for South Asian films. The festival, which returns this year for its seventh annual event, was co-founded by two South Asian women, Alka Bhanot and Tripti Bhatnagar. The organization, in addition to hosting an annual film festival, puts on screenings in Austin and Dallas throughout the year. The complete lineup of films can be found at: https://www.indiememe.org/imff-2022.

Putin’s Unkindest Cut of All

Nikita Kruschev, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s predecessor, even though not immediate, is known to have said that he accepts every single teaching of Jesus except the one in which Jesus tells his disciples that if anyone slaps on one cheek, he/she should offer the other cheek instead of retaliating, and hitting back. Kruschev’s way of going about, if anybody would slap him, would be, to hit back with such force that the head of the aggressor would fall off! That is how far Kruschev was from Jesus and His teachings.

Now, Putin seems to have gone even further than Kruschev when he started an undeclared war, and invaded Ukraine. It is an unprovoked war, and therefore, unjustified on every count. He has not been slapped by anyone on his cheek, but he is out to destroy a democratic free country. Kruschev would be lagging far behind, as an opponent of Christ, having been put to shame by Putin with this act of aggression against Ukraine, not to be justified by anyone.

With great anxiety and with a prayer in my heart I have been reading newspapers and watching news in the last few weeks, as tension had been building up between Russia on one side, and the U.S.A., NATO and Ukraine on the other side. Everybody had been wondering why Russia had deployed 1,50,000-plus troops around Ukraine, if they had no intention of annexing Ukraine, as they claimed.

In fact, the Russians were talking about a hysteria of the West for fear of the annexation of Ukraine which, they said, was never on their mind, but only a fiction of the hysterical minds of the West. And then came the onslaught on Ukraine and the Ukrainians, turning the seeming glimmer of goodness and hope into a lie. And what a lie it was! The reports are that, as I am writing this, over 2 million of Ukrainian refugees have sought refuge in neighbouring countries like Poland, Moldova, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania. Besides, millions of people have been displaced within the country, and they are going about helplessly trying to find a safe place for themselves.

My heart weeps when I see those poor people leaving their homes and heading towards unknown destinations. It is particularly painful and heart-wrenching to see little children walking or being carried by their mothers. In most cases the mothers are left alone to fend for themselves in this task, because the Ukrainian authorities have ordered the men-folk to stay back and defend their country from the Russian aggressor. And they are heroically doing this for the love of their country.

I am asking myself if the aggressors and their bosses do not know what kind of suffering they are giving these poor people. So many are getting killed, so many are getting injured. Do the aggressors not have hearts of flesh? Are their hearts of stone? Or do they not have hearts at all? Not even the sight of little children dragging their suitcases, bigger than themselves, seems to melt the heart of Putin and his men. Expecting Putin to know how Jesus loved little children, and always wanted them to be brought to him (Mt. 19:14), is perhaps too much?! But then Putin is a Christian, belonging to the Orthodox Church, and so he should have known this. I am wondering why the leaders of his Orthodox Church are not opening their mouths to teach Putin what Jesus would have liked to teach him.

Unlike Pope Francis, who has condemned this war without mincing words, we are yet to hear the voice of the Orthodox Church!

I wonder if President Putin has seen the picture of a mother carrying a little child, which has gone viral these days. It is the picture of Putin’s mother carrying Putin in her arms. The story is that a soldier came home from the front-lines for a brief break, during the World War II. He reached his house to see people loading dead bodies onto a truck. Sticking out of the pile of bodies, the soldier saw the leg of a lady with a pair of shoes, which he recognised as his wife’s shoes. He had to plead and fight with the men who were loading the dead bodies onto the truck, so he could hug the body of his wife. The reluctant men relented and let the man pull the body of his wife out from the pile of dead bodies. To his and everybody’s surprise, he realized that the woman was still alive and breathing. He carried her home, and nursed her to, what could be called, a new life.

A few years later, a son was born to the couple. And that was Vladimir Putin! How I wish I could go and put this picture in front of Putin’s eyes to remind him that it was God’s mercy that had kept his mother alive, and given him the gift of life. I would also like to remind him that he had to show the same mercy towards one and all, rather than be a cause of sorrow and suffering for others.

It is difficult for me to understand how the man’s heart does not melt to see those women and children fleeing their homes, knowing that, in all probability, they will not live to see their beloved ones back at home. Not everybody can have the same good fortune that Putin had. How can anyone be so untouched by the heart-wrenching scenes we see on TV unless one has no heart at all?

We are reminded of similar scenes we saw some time back here in our own country, when our roads were filled with thousands of people, migrant workers, returning to their homes, having lost their jobs, sometimes mothers delivering babies along the roads, and many people breathing their last on the roads. At that time, too, we had felt that those who were responsible to inflict these sufferings on the poor people had no hearts. Unfortunately and sadly, we are made aware that there are such people in this world even today.

I started by saying that both Kruschev as well as Putin are far away from Jesus and His teachings. Those who act and behave like this, with no feelings of love and mercy in their hearts, like many of our own leaders, are far removed from the teachings of Jesus.

The Gospels present Jesus as a loving and merciful teacher, who always thought of others, rather than of himself. Why would he, otherwise, even though he was God, “not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but rather empty himself, taking the form of a servant?” (Philippians 2:6) And, therefore, his teaching was always “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). I can well imagine Jesus weeping with all those who are suffering now because of this senseless and unjust war inflicted upon the poor people of Ukraine. In fact, his infinite love and mercy, even in this situation, says to the Ukrainians: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Rom. 12:14).

A glimmer of hope

In the darkness and hatred of this war, there is a glimmer of light and hope because there are people who see evil in it and condemn it. One such powerful and shining beacon is Pope Francis who had been raising his voice against the dangers of this war. And once it had unfortunately started, he went to the Russian Embassy in Rome to plead for peace and negotiations across the table. Here is a man, who is a true disciple of Jesus, who is prepared to go to any extent, to live the message of Jesus and to propagate it. And he is aware that all over the world people are hungering for love and peace. Therefore, he has taken it upon himself to promote love, peace, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. He has knocked at the doors of embassies and fallen at the feet of leaders pleading for peace.

Pope Francis shows and teaches that one has to be prepared to turn the other cheek, and live the message of Jesus in its entirety. He has often said that wars never solve problems, but only bring about misery upon the people who are involved in them. The Pope always harps upon the theme of God’s mercy to such an extent that it led a prominent Italian clergy-man to say that he seems to be exaggerating on the mercy of God. But I countered him by asking him how he could talk about exaggerating on God’s mercy, when we know that God’s mercy is infinite. How does one exaggerate on something which is infinite?

What Putin and his stooges are very much in need of, at this juncture, is God’s Mercy. They must be prepared to humble themselves, and cease hostilities acknowledging that these are purely based on their lies and on their selfishness and pride. This may seem difficult and even impossible now. But we know that for God nothing is impossible. And we know that people all over the world are praying for peace. With the prayers of millions of people God can change the heart of Putin and his advisers. As it is rightly said, a Church kneeling in prayer is more powerful than an army on its feet.

There are many who consider this war as an evil, and condemn it. We know that there are thousands of people all over the world, and even within Russia, who are protesting against this unjust war. This gives us another glimmer of hope. The hardened heart of dictator Putin has clamped down upon them, and locked them up in prison. However, as our own Father Stan Swamy, of happy memory, said, when he was put behind bars, “a caged bird can still sing”. So, they will continue to protest against Putin and his actions. May they and millions of people all over the world continue to condemn the dictator of Russia. And may their protesting voices continue to resound and eventually touch and change the hardened heart of Putin. Let us remember that The Lord is the one who said to His people: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

Let us remember that the Lord came to the rescue of Israelites when the powerful Egyptians pursued them. The book of Exodus tells us that “in the morning watch, the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked upon the host of the Egyptians, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians, clogging their chariot-wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said: “let us flee from before Israel; for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians” (Exodus 14: 23-25). We also have the case of David and Goliath, when a shepherd’s sling proved to be mightier than a sword (1 Sam. 17:48). God is almighty, and He is always in command.

Ukraine Incursion, World Stagflation

Finger pointing in the blame game over Russia’s Ukraine incursion obscures the damage it is doing on many fronts. Meanwhile, billions struggle to cope with worsening living standards, exacerbated by the pandemic and more.

Losing sight in the fog of war

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken insists, “the Russian people will suffer the consequences of their leaders’ choices”. Western leaders and media seem to believe their unprecedentedcrushing sanctions” will have a “chilling effect” on Russia.

With sanctions intended to strangle Russia’s economy, the US and its allies somehow hope to increase domestic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to retreat from Ukraine. The West wants to choke Russia by cutting its revenue streams, e.g., from oil and gas sales to Europe.

Already, the rouble has been hammered by preventing Russia’s central bank from accessing its US$643bn in foreign currency reserves, and barring Russian banks from using the US-run global payments transfer system, SWIFT.

Withdrawal of major Western transnational companies – such as Shell, McDonald’s and Apple – will undoubtedly hurt many Russians – not only oligarchs, their ostensible target.

Thus, Blinken’s claim that “The economic costs that we’ve been forced to impose on Russia are not aimed at you [ordinary Russians]” may well ring hollow to them. They will get little comfort from knowing, “They are aimed at compelling your government to stop its actions, to stop its aggression”.

As The New York Times notes, “sanctions have a poor record of persuading governments to change their behavior”. US sanctions against Cuba over six decades have undoubtedly hurt its economy and people.

But – as in Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela – it has failed to achieve its supposed objectives. Clearly, “If the goal of sanctions is to compel Mr. Putin to halt his war, then the end point seems far-off.”

Russia, major commodity exporter

Undoubtedly, Russia no longer has the industrial and technological edges it once had. Following Yeltsin era reforms in the early 1990s, its economy shrank by half – lowering Russian life expectancy more than anywhere else in the last six millennia!

Russia has become a major primary commodity producer – not unlike many developing countries and the former settler colonies of North America and Australasia. It is now a major exporter of crude oil and natural gas.

It is also the largest exporter of palladium and wheat, and among the world’s biggest suppliers of fertilizers using potash and nitrogen. On 4 March, Moscow suspended fertilizer exports, citing “sabotage” by “foreign logistics companies”.

Farmers and consumers will suffer as yields drop by up to half. Sudden massive supply disruptions will thus have serious ramifications for the world economy – now more interdependent than ever, due to earlier globalization.

Sanctions’ inflation boomerang

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has ominously warned of the Ukraine crisis’ economic fallouts. She cautions wide-ranging sanctions on Russia will worsen inflation and further slow growth.

No country is immune, including those imposing sanctions. But the worst hit are poor countries, particularly in Africa, already struggling with rising fuel and food prices.

For Georgieva, more inflation – due to Russian sanctions – is the greatest threat to the world economy. “The surging prices for energy and other commodities – corn, metals, inputs for fertilizers, semiconductors – coming on top of already high inflation” are of grave concern to the world.

Russia and Ukraine export more than a quarter of the world’s wheat while Ukraine is also a major corn exporter. Supply chain shocks and disruptions could add between 0.2% to 0.4% to ‘headline inflation’ – which includes both food and fuel prices – in developed economies over the coming months.

US petrol prices jumped to a 17-year high in the first week of March. The costs of other necessities, especially food, are rising as well. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has acknowledged that the sanctions are worsening US inflation.

The European Union (EU) gets 40% of its natural gas from Russia. Finding alternative supplies will be neither easy nor cheap. The EU is Russia’s largest trading partner, accounting for 37% of global trade in 2020. Thus, sanctions may well hurt Europe more than Russia – like cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.

The European Central Bank now expects stagflation – economic stagnation with inflation, and presumably, rising unemployment. It has already slashed its growth forecast for 2022 from 4.2% to 3.7%. Inflation is expected to hit a record 5.1% – way above its previous 3.2% forecast!

Developing countries worse victims
Global food prices are already at record highs, with the Food Price Index (FPI) of the Food and Agricultural Organization up more than 40% over the past two years.

The FPI hit an all-time high in February – largely due to bad weather and rising energy and fertilizer costs. By February 2022, the Agricultural Commodity Price Index was 35% higher, while maize and wheat prices were 26% and 23% more than in January 2021.

Besides shortages and rising production costs – due to surging fuel and fertilizer prices – speculation may also push food prices up – as in 2007-2008.

Signs of such speculation are already visible. Chicago Board of Trade wheat future prices rose 40% in early March – its largest weekly increase since 1959!

Rising food prices impact people in low- and middle-income countries more as they spend much larger shares of their incomes on food than in high-income countries. The main food insecurity measure has doubled in the past two years, with 45 million people close to starvation, even before the Ukraine crisis.

Countries in Africa and Asia rely much more on Russian and Ukrainian grain. The World Bank has warned, “There will be important ramifications for the Middle East, for Africa, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, in particular”, where many were already food insecure before the incursion.

The Ukraine crisis will be devastating for countries struggling to cope with the pandemic. Unable to access enough vaccines or mount adequate responses, they already lag behind rich countries. The latest food and fuel price hikes will also worsen balance-of-payments problems and domestic inflationary pressures.

No to war!

The African proverb, “When two elephants fight, all grass gets trampled”, sums up the world situation well. The US and its allies seem intent to ‘strangle Russia’ at all costs, regardless of the massive collateral damage to others.

This international crisis comes after multilateralism has been undermined for decades. Hopes for reduced international hostilities, after President Biden’s election, have evaporated as US foreign policy double standards become more apparent.

Russia has little support for its aggressive violation of international law and norms. Despite decades of deliberate NATO provocations, even after the Soviet Union ended, Putin has lost international sympathy with his aggression in Ukraine.

But there is no widespread support for NATO or the West. Following the vaccine apartheid and climate finance fiascos, the poorer, ‘darker nations’ have become more cynical of Western hypocrisy as its racism becomes more brazen.

India Actively Undercutting US’ Efforts To Isolate Russia: Report

India’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and efforts to protect trade mean one of Washington’s most valued strategic partners is actively undercutting its efforts to isolate Moscow, Axios reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion has become a stress test for America’s global partnerships. America’s treaty allies are all onside, including those outside NATO such as Japan and South Korea. India, for reasons of history and geopolitical pragmatism, is very much not, the report said.

India abstained on a series of UN votes condemning the invasion.

One such resolution was backed by 141 countries, though a Russian diplomat contended that with China and India both abstaining, the critics represented less than half of the global population.

While the US and EU have led a global push to isolate Russia economically, India has been buying up more Russian energy at a discount, Axios reported.

As per the Financial Times, India’s central bank is discussing a rupee-ruble trade plan with Moscow to ensure it can continue to buy Russian goods, potentially weakening the effects of Western sanctions, the report said.

US officials say they understand India’s delicate position vis-a-vis Russia, though White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called on India’s leaders to “think about where you want to stand when history books are written”.

The British Trade Secretary said Thursday that the UK is “very disappointed” by India’s position and hopes it will change. That’s not looking likely, Axios reported.

India Restores 10-Year And E-Tourist Visas For US Nationals

India has restored all valid long duration (10 years) regular (paper) tourist visas for US nationals with immediate effect. Fresh issue of regular (paper) long-duration (10 years) tourist visas has also been restored for US nationals.

In addition, e-Tourist visas under the three options (one month, one year and five years), which remained suspended since March 2020, shall stand restored.

Applications for fresh e-tourist visas for eligible nationalities can also be made at the Indian E-Visa Portal [https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html]

The current scheme of regular tourist visa/e-visa (one month stay only) on gratis basis will also continue.

Foreign nationals on tourist/e-tourist visas will be permitted to enter India only through designated Sea Immigration Check Posts (ICPs) or Airport ICPs by flights, including those under the Vande Bharat Mission or ‘air bubble’ scheme or by any flights as allowed by Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation.

In no case, the foreign nationals will be allowed to enter through land border or riverine routes on Tourist visa/E-Tourist visa, said a press release issued by the Consulate General of India in Atlanta.

Applicants are also advised to go through the guidelines for international travel to India, available at: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/GuidelinesforInternationalarrivalsupdatedon10thFebruary2022.pdf

Indian American Kids-Led Trumbull Robotics Team Makes it to World Championship

Robolution 18366 is going to worlds! Team Robolution 18366 from Trumbull, CT is a robotics team is now all set to compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge. FIRST Robotics is a worldwide robotics organization that inspires people to join STEM and pursue robotics in the future.

Incorporated in 1797, Trumbull town was named after Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Lebanon, Connecticut. Located 5 miles north from the Long Island Sound, among the most virant towens in the Fairfield County in the state of Connecticut, this vibrant community offers New England charm with extensive retail, outdoor recreation, and dining options. Known for its diversity, Trumbull has a fast growing Indian American community, which excels in academia with the students of Indian American parents rank among the highest in educational achiements.

The Trumbull Robotics Team is only an example of how the Indian American kids excel and exhibit their leadership and STEM skills, making Trumbull proud. The team consists of Aarav Parekh, Saihari Kota, Ayush Puthiyavettle, Tejas Puthiyavettle, Yash Permalla, Rithik Gunda, Pranav Kodakara, Chandini Kalidindi, Richard Xiong, Arnav Dadarya, and Sharvi Kulkarni. It’s of immense significance that of the 11 team members, 10 of them are of Indian origin.

Trumbull Robotics Team won the 1st 1st place at Connect Award, which “is given to the team that most connects with their local science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) community. We were recognized for helping our local community connect with STEM and actively helping our local community explore opportunities available in STEM.”

The Team won 2nd place at the Inspire Award, which is “given to the the team that best represents what the FIRST tech challenge is about, and is a role model for other teams competing. We were recognized for being strong contenders for several awards as well as having a detailed and informative engineering portfolio, which clearly explains our creative and thoughtful design process.”

Trumbull Robotics Team came 1st at Promote Award, “given to the team that is most successful at creating a video message for the public designed to change culture and celebrate Science, Technology, and Math. We were recognized for creating a unique and engaging video message about the topic: “what I would tell younger self about FIRST.”

Aarav Parekh of the Trumbull Robotic Team has the distinction of being on the Deans List Finalist. This award is given out to a student who are great examples of leaders who have led their Teams and communities to increased awareness for FIRST and its mission. Aarav Parekh was one of two students from across Connecticut to be selected as a Dean’s List Finalist. As a finalist, he has shown leadership within the team and community to increase awareness of STEM and robotics while displaying technical expertise.

“Team Robolution had a very successful day at the CT State Championship on February 26th, 2022, winning first place for both the Connect and the Promote Award and second place for the Inspire Award. In addition to the team’s achievements, junior Aarav Parekh was one of two individuals in the state nominated as a 2022 Dean’s List Finalist. Robolution’s success has qualified them as one of the two teams to represent the state of Connecticut at the FTC World Championship in Houston this April,” the Team’s website stated.

The Goals of the Team as outlined on the website includes: “Competitive engineering process; Improve outreach; Help people around the world; and, Efficient and reliable design with industrial engineering.  The Team of 11 members wants to “Prioritize learning, sharing our knowledge and experience with others.”

Reporting on the Outreach of the Team, the website states: “Impacted 300+ students in outreach events, including offering Online Java programming sessions; FLL team mentoring- T-MECHS; Discord collaboration with FIRST Teams; Trumbull Tutors; Teaching students how to use CAD; and Tutoring students about robotics and engineering.”

59 Percent Of Indian Billionaires Are Self-Made

Fifty-nine percent of Indian billionaires are self-made, according to a new report.

“We are happy to be associated with Hurun India for the launch of the M3M Hurun Global Rich List 2022, curated with an in-depth market research which demonstrates that Indian businesses are one of the fastest value creators,” said Pankaj Bansal, Director, M3M India, on the M3M Hurun Global Rich List 2022.

Over the last few years, wealth creation by India Inc. has catapulted the economic growth in the country.

Interestingly, 59 per cent of the country’s billionaires are self-made, thus indicating that the new-generation entrepreneurs are financially-wise, asset-rich and investment-vibrant. Also, gender inclusivity and equality has been a noticeable theme with women outranking men across industries, said Bansal.

“Having said this, it is also true that the rich have invested in philanthropy and have played a significant role in the social and economic growth in India, particularly focusing on nutrition, education and women empowerment,” he said.

As Andrew Carnegie, one of the greatest philanthropists, said, “Ninety per cent of all millionaires become so through owning real-estate.”

“The real estate sector is ranked third amongst major sector in India and is also the second largest in terms of employment generation, and it particularly delivers in short-term and long-term employment creation. This sector is also looking forward to contribute 13 per cent in India’s GDP by 2025 and reach a market size of $1 trillion by 2030.

“No wonder, it contributed 8.1 per cent to the overall list of billionaires and possesses a concentration of 275 billionaires, which I am certain will see a significant jump in the next 5 years owing to unmet housing demands generated by urbanisation and modernisation of towns,” Bansal said.

“We are hopeful that the year 2022 will ignite the economic buoyancy in the country and will enable us to match steps with our global counterparts. Particularly, when India is gaining momentum in startups and unicorns, and has become 3rd largest ecosystem in the world, only after US and China,” he added.

‘Which Side Of History Do You Want To Be On?’ White House Asks India On Russia

India has expressed deep concern at the worsening situation in Ukraine and called for immediate cessation of violence and end to all hostilities. New Delhi has, however, abstained from UN resolutions criticizing Russia.

While acknowledging that India’s imports of oil from Russia will not fall within the sanctions regime imposed by the United States (US) and its allies, the White House has said that it was time for India — and other countries — to choose which side of history they wanted to be on.

When asked about reports that India could take up Russian offers of discounted crude oil, and what would be the US’s response to such moves by India and others, White House spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said, “Our message to any country continues to be that, obviously, abide by the sanctions that we have put in place and recommended. I don’t believe this would be violating that. But also think about where you want to stand when the history books are written in this moment in time.”

Psaki derides Russian sanctions on US officials

White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed Russia’s announcement of sanctions against a number of U.S. officials including President Joe Biden and Psaki herself, joking that Biden “is a junior, so they may have sanctioned his dad.” (March 15)

Psaki added that any “support for the Russian leadership” was “ support for an invasion that obviously is having a devastating impact”.

Reports of India’s plans to continue its economic engagement with Russia, through alternative payment mechanisms, have, sparked off a new set of critical responses in the US against India’s stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Amy Bera, the chair of the House of Representatives subcommittee on Asia, Pacific, Central Asia and non-proliferation, said in a statement that as a senior Indian-American member of the Congress, he had been “deeply disappointed” with India’s abstention at the votes in the United Nations condemning Russian aggression, despite India’s long history of defending its own borders from outside aggression.

“Even worse, India is now reportedly looking to bypass international sanctions and buy Russian oil at a steeply discounted rate, potentially giving (Vladimir) Putin an economic lifeline at a time when the Russian economy is reeling from international sanctions.”

Bera added that if these reports were accurate then New Delhi would be “choosing to side” with Putin. “As the world’s largest democracy, and as a leader of the Quad, India has a responsibility to ensure its actions do not directly or indirectly support Putin and his invasion.”

In recent hearings on India and the Indo-Pacific on the Hill, US lawmakers have expressed their anger and disappointment at India’s stance, despite efforts by administration officials from both the State Department and Pentagon to give a glimpse of India’s constraints vis a vis its dependence on Russia.

The administration has said that it would not “stand by” and allow countries to compensate Russia at this moment. In the context of China’s support to Russia, Ned Price, the State Department spokesperson, said on Monday, “We are watching very closely the extent to which the PRC, or any other country for that matter, provides any form of support, whether that’s material support, whether that’s economic support, whether that’s financial support, to Russia. Any such support from anywhere in the world would be of great concern to us.”

India has expressed deep concern at the worsening situation in Ukraine and called for immediate cessation of violence and end to all hostilities. New Delhi has, however, abstained from UN resolutions attacking Russia. External affairs minister S Jaishankar told Parliament on Tuesday that India has “reiterated at the highest levels of our leadership to all parties concerned that there is no other choice but the path of diplomacy and dialogue. We have emphasised to all member states of the UN that the global order is anchored on international law, UN Charter and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of states.”

Sleeping With Even A Small Amount Of Light May Harm Your Health, Study Says

Sleeping for only one night with a dim light, such as a TV set with the sound off, raised the blood sugar and heart rate of healthy young people participating in a sleep lab experiment, a new study found.

The dim light entered the eyelids and disrupted sleep despite the fact that participants slept with their eyes closed, said study author Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Heart rate typically drops at night, slowing down as the the brain is busy repairing and rejuvenating the body. An elevated heart rate at night has been shown in numerous studies to be a risk factor for future heart disease and early death.

High blood sugar levels are a sign of insulin resistance, where the body stops using glucose properly and the pancreas goes into overdrive, flooding the body with extra insulin to overcompensate until it eventually loses its ability to do so. Over time, insulin resistance can ultimately lead to Type 2 diabetes.

Sleeping with eyes closed

Prior research has shown an association between artificial light at night and weight gain and obesity, disruptions in metabolic function, insulin secretion and the development of diabetes, and cardiovascular risk factors.

“Why would sleeping with your lights on affect your metabolism? Could that explain why there is a higher prevalence of diabetes or obesity (in society)?” Zee asked.

Zee and her team took 20 healthy people in their 20s and had them spend two nights in a sleep lab. The first night was spent in a darkened room where “you wouldn’t be able to see much, if anything, when your eyes were open,” Zee said.

All of the study participants were connected to devices monitoring a number of objective measures of sleep quality. So data could be gathered with minimal interference, they slept with an IV with long tubes that snake across the room and through a hole to the researcher’s side of the lab. The blood was drawn without ever touching the slumbering participants.

“We recorded the brainwaves and could tell what sleep stage the person was in,” Zee said. “We recorded their breathing, their heart rate, their EKG, and we also drew blood from them to measure melatonin levels while they were sleeping.” Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the body’s circadian rhythm, or sleep and wake body clock.

A randomized portion of the group repeated that same light level for a second night in the lab, while another group slept with a dim overhead light with a glow roughly equivalent to “a very, very dark, cloudy day or street lights coming in through a window,” Zee said.

“Now these people were asleep with their eyelids closed,” she explained. “In the literature the estimation is that about 5% to 10% of the light in the environment would actually get through the closed lid to the eye, so this is really not a lot of light.”

Yet even that tiny amount of light created a deficit of slow wave and rapid eye movement sleep, the stages of slumber in which most cellular renewal occurs, Zee said.

In addition, heart rate was higher, insulin resistance rose, and the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and relax) nervous systems were unbalanced, which has been linked to higher blood pressure in healthy people.

The light was not bright enough, however, to lower levels of melatonin in the body, Zee added. The study was published Monday in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What to do?

What advice would Zee give people based on her study and existing research in the field? Close your blinds and curtains, turn off all the lights, and consider using a sleep mask.

“I think the strength of the evidence is that you should clearly pay attention to the light in your bedroom,” she said. “Make sure that you start dimming your lights at least an hour or two before you go to bed to prepare your environment for sleep.”

Check your bedroom for sources of light that are not necessary, she added. If a night light is needed, keep it dim and at floor level, “so that it’s more reflected rather than right next to your eye or bed level,” she suggested.

Also be aware of the type of light you have in your bedroom, she added, and ban any lights in the blue spectrum, such as those emitted by electronic devices like televisions, smartphones, tablets and laptops.

“Blue light is the most stimulating type of light,” Zee said. “If you have to have a light on for safety reasons change the color. You want to choose lights that have more reddish or brownish tones.”  LED lights can be purchased in any color, including red and brownish tones.

Kal Penn, Winner of AALDEF Justice In Action Award, Tapped To Star In ‘The Santa Clause’

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) presented this year’s Justice in Action Awards to Hollywood actor Kal Penn and to Thomas S. Kim, Chief Legal Officer and Company Secretary at Thomson Reuters on March 9th.

Penn was honored for his advocacy for representation in media and his service on behalf of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a press release from AALDEF said.

In a video, award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair, who cast Penn as the lead in her 2006 film “The Namesake,” said, “As an activist and an artist, Kal has never shied away from his roots. He is unapologetic about who he is, and yet is an incredible bridge builder, creating a strong sense of allyship and solidarity with other communities.”

The awards ceremony, held at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in New York City,  was the highlight of AALDEF’s 2022 Lunar New Year Gala, celebrating the Year of the Tiger.

Penn is venturing into Bollywood in a big way. He is the Executive Producer of “Hot Mess Holiday” to be released soon, and is quoted in media reports saying he is interested in doing more in Bollywood.

Penn, known for his role in the ‘Harold and Kumar’ film franchise, is set to star as a lead opposite Tim Allen and Elizabeth Mitchell in Disney Plus’s upcoming limited series, ‘The Santa Clause’, from creator Jack Burditt.

According to Deadline, Allen will be reprising his role as Scott Calvin from the Walt Disney Pictures holiday franchise. The sequel series will show Scott on the brink of his 65th birthday and realizing that he cannot be Santa forever. He has suddenly started to lose his Santa magic, and more importantly, he’s got a family, who could benefit from a life in the normal world, especially his two kids who grew up in the North Pole.

Accompanied by a lot of elves, children and family to please, Scott sets out to find a suitable replacement Santa while preparing his family for a new adventure in a life south of the pole.

Penn will portray an ambitious game inventor and product developer and a devoted single father named Simon Choksi. He’s capable of talking the tech-mogul talk but is unable to walk the walk, and his dreams of being the next Bezos falls drastically short. However, after a visit to the North Pole, all that changes.

Mitchell would be reprising her role as Mrs Clause from the films, as was previously announced.

As per Deadline, this project will be directed and executive produced by Jason Winer along with Jon Radler for Winer’s Small Dog Picture Company. Burditt will executive produce and serve as showrunner.

Allen will also executive produce with Kevin Hench, Richard Baker and Rick Messina. The Disney Branded Television series is a production of 20th Television, a part of Disney Television Studios.

Chandrasekaran Appointed As Air India Chairman

Tata Sons Chairman N. Chandrasekaran has been appointed as Air India Chairman, a group spokesperson said. The development comes as the Tata Group scouts for a new Air India CEO-MD.

Earlier this month, ex-Turkish Airlines head Mehmet Ilker Ayci, who was named as the new Air India CEO-MD, declined the position. No reason was given for Ayci’s decision.

Last month, the Tata Group-led Air India announced the appointment of Ayci as the new Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the airline. At that time, Ayci while accepting the position said he is “delighted and honoured to accept the privilege of leading an iconic airline and to join the Tata Group”. He was expected to take the charge on or before April 1.

Ayci, 51, until recently was the Chairman of Turkish Airlines and was also on its Board of Directors prior to that.

Recently, the Tata Group bought the debt ridden state-owned Air India from the Central government by placing a bid of over Rs 18,000 crore at an auction and on January 27, it took over the full control of the airlines.

India Ranks High In Cumulative Excess Covid-Deaths: Lancet Report

A Global Report Looking At Excess Deaths During The Pandemic Period Put India In A Harsh Light

India recorded the highest estimated number of cumulative excess Covid-19 deaths beating the USA, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan, reported a Lancet report on March 10, 2022. The paper that looked at deaths due to Covid-19 between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021 also estimated that nearly 18.2 million people died globally as opposed to the official figure of 5.94 million.

With a goal to estimate excess mortality during the pandemic period, the Lancet published a paper wherein researchers searched various government websites, the World Mortality Database compendia, the Human Mortality Database, etc. and identified 74 countries and an additional 266 subnational locations where either weekly or monthly all-cause mortality data were reported for the required period. Further the paper used empirical assessments of excess mortality for 12 states of India.

The study found that the number of excess Covid-related deaths was largest in regions of South Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. However, in all this, India estimated the highest cumulative excess deaths at 4.07 million deaths, way ahead of the US, where the estimate stood at 1.13 million deaths. In Russia, estimates stood at 1.07 million deaths, Mexico suffered around 7,98,000 deaths. An estimated 7,92,000 deaths took place in Brazil while the estimated figure for Indonesia was 7,36,000 deaths and for Pakistan it was  6,64,000 deaths.

It may be noted that of these countries, Russia had the highest excess mortality rate at 374.6 deaths per 1,00,000 followed by Mexico (325.1 deaths per 1,00,000), Brazil (186.9 deaths per 1,00,000) and the USA (179.3 deaths per 1,00,000). The global all-age rate of excess mortality due to the Covid-19 pandemic was 120·3 deaths per 1,00,000 of the population. It exceeded 300 deaths per 1,00,000 of the population in 21 countries.

Estimated deaths much higher than reported in India

As per the report, excess mortality rates due to Covid-19 in some Indian states were similar to those of some high-income countries in the northern hemisphere. The report also computed the ratio of excess mortality rate to reported Covid-19 mortality rate to measure the undercounting of the true mortality impact of the pandemic. Accordingly, it found that the national-level ratios in south Asia ranged from 8·33 in India to 36·06 in Bhutan. The most extreme ratios in the region were found in the states and provinces of India and Pakistan, ranging from 0·96 in Goa, India to 49·64 in Balochistan, Pakistan.

Using data from the civil registration system data for 12 states, and the mean reported deaths during the relevant periods in 2018 and 2019, the report obtained excess mortality estimates for select periods during the first and second waves. It also calculated a country-level residual using the residual from the 12 states.

Specifically, the report found that at the national level, India had an estimated 152·5 excess deaths (95 percent UI 138·6–163·3) per 1,00,000 of the population. This number is much higher than the data that was reported during the two Covid-waves. Covid-19 mortality rate was 18·3 deaths per 1,00,000 over the same period.

Further, heterogeneity in excess mortality among the 30 states of India was extremely high. From January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2021, as many as 8 Indian states had excess mortality rates higher than 200 per 1,00,000 population, a level only exceeded by 50 other countries in the world. These states were: Uttarakhand, Manipur, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Karnataka.

Meanwhile, Arunachal Pradesh, Telangana, Sikkim, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Goa had excess mortality rates that were lower than the global average of 120.6 deaths per 1,00,000 population (although 95% UIs overlap). Similarly, sub-national heterogeneity was evident in the excess death counts. Seven states had excess deaths higher than 2,00,000 as of December 31, 2021, namely: West Bengal (2,20,000 deaths), Madhya Pradesh (2,23,000 deaths), Tamil Nadu (2,60,000 deaths), Karnataka (2,84,000 deaths) Bihar (3,23,000 deaths), Uttar Pradesh (5,17,000 deaths) and Maharashtra (6,16,000 deaths).

“Although the excess mortality rates due to the Covid-19 pandemic among Indian states are not the highest in the world, because of India’s large population, the country accounted for 22.3 percent of global excess deaths as of December 31, 2021. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra had excess deaths higher than South Africa (3,02,000 deaths), with South Africa ranking tenth among all countries,” said the Lancet report.

States with ambiguous mortality data

Earlier, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and The Wire published data about Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh that showed huge data discrepancies in death-related data during the Covid-19 pandemic. As per the 2019 Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin, the actual crude death rate (CDR) for the state as a whole was to be 6.5 percent. Based on the rural-urban make-up of the surveyed population, the study expected the CDR in the surveyed areas to be around 6.7. However by 2019, the recorded CDR of 6.4 percent in this population was close to state-level expectations. There was not much room for further improvement in reporting to push the numbers up.

But in 2020 the CDR rose to 15-20 percent higher than expected either from 2019 data or from the state-wide CDR estimates from the annual SRS. In fact, the death rate during January-August 2021 was, over double the expectation. Even assuming the SRS significantly underestimated pre-pandemic yearly deaths but improved record-keeping to perfection during the pandemic, the deaths during the pandemic period were greatly above expectations.

The surveyed area had 55-60 percent more deaths during the 20 months from January 2020 to August 2021 than expected during that time. Across UP, this surge would amount to around 14 lakh excess deaths.

As per SRS and civil registration data, the state expects around 15 lakh deaths in a normal year. Further 14 lakh people also account for 0.6 percent of the state’s estimated 2021 population of around 23 cr people. Thus, the study claimed that the pandemic excess death toll amounted to almost a full year’s deaths.

Similarly, the report talked about Gujarat as a state with lower excess mortality rate than the global average. Yet, in May 2021, CJP reported data that estimated great under-reporting during the pandemic. On April 27, of the same year local newspaper Sandesh set aside five pages for obituaries in the Rajkot edition alone, while the state’s Covid-19 dashboard recorded only 14 deaths in the previous 24 hours. On the same day, the newspaper stated that 87 bodies were cremated following Covid protocol over the last two days while the government only recorded two Covid deaths.

This showed that despite Lancet report’s efforts to get official data, even the comparatively better surviving states in India were under great duress. Newspaper obituaries made for better indicators of death count in the area rather than official data, said CJP.

The Lancet report concluded that the full magnitude of COVID-19 was much greater in 2020 and 2021 than was indicated by reported deaths. It still called for further research and increased availability of ‘cause of death’ data for distinguishing the proportion of excess mortality directly caused by Covid-19. However, the study, coupled with previous reports of CJP show that there was great discrepancy especially in areas with a considerable Hindutva influence.

To verify this to certainty, the study stresses for ways to strengthen death reporting systems and mitigate political barriers to accurately track and monitor the continuation of the Covid-19 and future pandemics.

Why Your Student Loan Payments May Be Delayed

Federal student loan payments are supposed to resume in May, more than two years after they were paused because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the Education Department recently emailed unusual guidance to the companies that manage its $1.6 trillion student loan portfolio, throwing that timing into doubt.

Don’t reach out to borrowers about that May 1 deadline, the guidance said.

President Biden extends student loan payment freeze through May 1

The email, obtained by NPR and first reported by Politico, did not explain why servicers should go quiet about the deadline, nor did it say the deadline would change. But the order suggests that the Biden administration is considering another extension of the student loan payment freeze.

The department has a legal obligation to reach out to borrowers at least six times before the return to repayment, so telling servicers not to do this outreach, at a moment when legally it should be happening, means the administration can delay this decision only for so long.

That email comes just a few days after White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain hinted that the repayment pause could be extended, in an appearance on the podcast Pod Save America.

“The president is going to look at what we should do on student debt before the pause expires, or he’ll extend the pause,” Klain said.

There’s pressure from the left to cancel student debt

Klain’s words — “what we should do on student debt” — are a clear reference to the elephant in the room for Biden: He pledged, as a presidential candidate, to cancel at least $10,000 in student debt per borrower, but his reluctance, so far, to do so has frustrated many in his party.

Biden now faces increasing pressure from his own left flank, with Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., recently tweeting, “Student debt cancellation is a racial & economic justice issue” and “@POTUS must #CancelStudentDebt” — a tweet that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., shared, adding, “Grateful to be in this fight by your side.”

Even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has made things uncomfortable for Biden. After Klain’s comments became public, Schumer tweeted: “Today would be a great day for President Biden and Vice President Harris to #CancelStudentDebt.”

This pressure from fellow Democrats contributed to Biden’s last-minute decision in December to extend the repayment pause from Jan. 31 to its current date, May 1, even though the Education Department had already begun sending notices to borrowers.

In fact, over the past two years, the department has sent nearly 385 million emails alone to borrowers alerting them to approaching deadlines, only to see those deadlines evaporate half a dozen times when the Trump administration and then the Biden administration announced another extension. The result: confusion for borrowers.

Now comes this email to loan-servicing companies that appears to be an effort to prevent another raft of confusing borrower notices around another deadline that could evaporate.

There are risks to resuming repayment in May

There are big logistical and political risks to requiring tens of millions of borrowers to resume repayments in May.

Logistically, two mammoth student loan servicers, Navient and FedLoan, are winding down their federal contracts, leaving the Education Department to shift millions of borrowers to other servicers. That could make it harder for some to get the help they’ll need changing repayment plans or monthly payments — not the kind of frustration Democrats want lingering into an election season.

Which is the biggest problem with May, as anyone with a calendar will tell you: It is dangerously close to the midterm elections in November. Asking borrowers to resume repaying student loans ahead of those elections offers little political upside for Democrats.

Biden pledged to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt. Here’s what he’s done so far

What’s more, liberal Democrats who have been pushing for debt cancellation may see a return to repayment as Biden abandoning his campaign pledge, because it makes little sense to force borrowers — and the government — back into debt repayment and collection if cancellation is on the way. If, instead, Biden extends the deadline, even if he continues to avoid a decision on cancellation, the pandemic pause becomes an election-season asset for Democrats, rather than a liability.

“Joe Biden is the only president in history where no one’s paid on their student loans for the entirety of his presidency,” Klain said on the podcast, clearly test-driving a talking point for borrower voters.

And some borrower advocates who have pushed Biden hard on cancellation are already throwing their support behind another extension of the repayment pause.

“This is one of the rare cases where economics, politics, policy and common sense all push in the same direction,” said Mike Pierce, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, in a statement to NPR.

“When every other aspect of American life is more expensive in the wake of the pandemic, student loans don’t need to be. It appears that President Biden and Vice President Harris recognize this and will once again step up to protect people with student debt,” Pierce said in response to news of the department’s email to loan servicers.

Biden’s conservative critics argue enough is enough

When student loan interest and payments were first paused in March 2020, as part of the CARES Act, borrowers were in the vise grip of the pandemic and the pause enjoyed bipartisan support — as did moves to extend it, at least long enough for the economic effects of the pandemic to recede and for borrowers to get back on their feet.

Despite inflation hitting another 40-year high, hiring is rebounding. Critics of another extension also point out that the pause on interest and payments has cost the federal government, along with taxpayers, at least $95 billion.

This rumored extension “makes clear that the President is comfortable using the narrative of a permanent pandemic to advance [his] policy preferences behind closed doors,” Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina said in a statement to NPR. She’s the top Republican on the House Education Committee.

“Hardworking taxpayers are tired of having their backs broken by this President. Another repayment freeze only begets unfairness that is inevitably leveled at both taxpayers and responsible borrowers alike,” Foxx said.

In a statement to NPR, an Education Department spokesperson would not confirm that the repayment pause would continue beyond May 1, but wrote, “from Day One, the Biden-Harris Administration has been committed to providing meaningful relief to student loan borrowers including the 41 million borrowers who have saved tens of billions as a result of the extended student loan payment pause. The Department will continue communicating directly with borrowers about federal student loan repayment by providing clear and timely updates.”

And yet borrowers eager to know when, exactly, they’ll be expected to resume repaying their student loans will have to wait a little longer.

Amrita University Is Now The 5th Best In India & Awarded With An A++ NAAC Grade

Amrita University is hogging the headlines. Yet again. This time, it has been for the A++ accreditation the highest it has received from NAAC, the national body that assesses Higher Education Institutions in India. Amrita is the youngest in the club. This recognition follows close on the heels of several others. In 2021, it was ranked the 5th best Indian university in the NIRF rankings. Additionally, the university was ranked 81st worldwide in the Impact rankings for the same year. And besides, in the QS rankings, Amrita has been rated as among the best universities in the world consistently over the years.

It’s interesting to see why the university has continually been grabbing the limelight since its inception eighteen years ago and why it has emerged as one of the most sought-after institutions within what certainly is a short span of time. In addition to the two more universities that are coming up in Faridabad and Amravati, six campuses, each in a different setting, now comprise Amrita University. One of them the headquarters in Coimbatore – is backdropped against the stately hills of the Western range. While the mirror-still backwaters of Kollam surround the campus at Amritapuri. The campus at Mysuru perches itself on the foothills of the Chamundi hills. And those at Kochi, Chennai and Bengaluru are framed by the silhouetted skylines of these cities in the distant horizon.

But if you step inside these campuses and peer into the minds of the people who work, teach and learn here, there is something that is distinctly common running through all of them. It is a set of values, beliefs, and practices, all at once.

You pick this up from what you see, whom you meet, and what you hear from the conversations you hold with them. “At Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, what we aim to produce is the synthesis of the education for life with the education for living,” points out Dr Venkat Rangan, Vice-Chancellor of the university. “We strive to bring the two together, to shape our students into people who balance competence in their profession with purpose in their lives,” he adds.

Such vision is brought alive through numerous on-ground practices. Take their Live-in Labs, for instance. In this program, the students choose to live in rural communities for a period of time typically several months to first identify and then understand the villagers’ problems, and later, to work with them, eventually arriving at solutions that are both innovative and sustainable in equal measure.

The result has not just been an experience that brings about a powerful transformation in the perspective that each participating student holds of the world. It has also been the lasting transformation of the lives of over two hundred thousand people in more than a hundred villages of India. Notably, over 400 international students from more than 40 international partner universities have participated in this program thus far.

Or consider another custom that sets this university apart compassion-driven research. “At Amrita, compassion is not a mere emotion. It is a path of action,” says Dr Raghu Raman, Dean, School of Business. “It is a theme that is driven by our Chancellor, and in turn, one that drives the vision and practices of the university. The objective is single-minded: social impact. And it runs through all our thrust areas of research in Science, Technology, Medicine, Ayurveda, Humanities and Social Sciences. Interestingly, it also aligns with several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for the world at large,” Dr Raman explains.

Over 1000 scholars in more than 30 research centres at Amrita synergise diverse disciplines in their effort to develop solutions with real-world applications. From 2016-2021, around 59800+ citations and 12050+ publications were published. The payoff has been enormous.

The Wireless Sensor Network for Landslide Detection, for example, is a low-cost system that integrates knowledge from multiple domains earth science, communication & networking, analog and digital circuits, to name a few. The system has been designed to detect landslides twenty-four hours ahead of time. It has received a U.S patent, and the university, as a result, is now officially recognized as a World Centre of Excellence for Disaster Risk Reduction.

There’s more!

OceanNet offers low-cost internet connectivity for fishermen at the sea, even if they are 60 kilometres away from the shore. Multiple drug-embedded Nano Polymer Wafers have been developed and successfully deployed to treat brain cancer. Cocobot -the coconut harvesting robot has helped farmers with timely yield as much as it has helped regulate the price of the nuts. Amrita Virtual Interactive E-Learning World (A-VIEW) is a multi-modal, e-learning platform built to provide an immersive e-learning experience that emulates a real classroom experience.

Further, The Amrita Center for Research in Analytics, Technologies & Education (Amrita CREATE) is an affordable educational technology initiative pioneered by Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, exclusively focussing on UN SDG 4. Digital learning solutions like Online Labs, which use interactive simulations and animations, have benefitted more than 50000 teachers and 4 lacs learners, reaching over 12000 schools in 21 states. During the pandemic, when students could not access physical labs due to school closure, Online Labs to practice lab experiments was used by more than 34 lacs users. Also, to provide cost-effective diabetic care to the masses of India, which is witnessing a massive spurt in cases of diabetes, Amrita’s School of Biotechnology has developed a cost-effective insulin pump and non-enzymatic glucose sensors with US patents licensed to Wipro Technologies.

AMMACHI Labs conceived to impart vocational skill training for the rural Indian woman integrates advanced technologies like haptics into their courses, empowering those less privileged with better livelihood and greater dignity. The center has earned India’s first UNESCO Chair in Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality.

It is also notable that among the private players in the educational sector, Amrita has the largest number of collaborations with the leading universities around the world, continually attracting reputed faculty from among them, including from the envied Ivy League, and, as a result, reversing a brain-drain into a brain-gain for the country. Unsurprisingly, those who graduate from the university turned out to be among the most wanted in the areas they specialise in.

Top corporate houses of the world, including Google, Cisco, Microsoft and SAP, train their sights on Amrita when they scout for resources. As a result, 95% of the students are placed in leading MNCs, luring them with compensation packagesas high as Rs 65 lacs per annum.

“The world’s best companies look for the world’s best resources to populate them,” says Thejas Menon, alumnus and now employed as Production Manager at Tesla Inc. at Nevada in the US. “These are the days when employers look beyond the depth of your proficiency and into the breadth of your worldview,” Menon adds.

Amrita University is more than an Institution of Eminence. It is a 50,000-strong community of scholars, teachers and alumni that power social change.

And if you are looking for their collective motivation, it is easy to find it in the words of the Chancellor, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi: “Life and living are not the same. For living, we may need a job, money, a home, a car and other creature comforts. But for life, a complete life, you also need love, compassion, and maturity both in thought and in action.”

Click here to read more on programs, faculty competence, global university partnering, campuses, student community and Amrita University initiatives.

TAGC Women’s Day Includes A Variety Of Activities And Fashion Competition

Telugu Association of Greater Chicago (TAGC) the first Telugu organization in the USA, celebrated Women’s Day on March 6th,2022 at Monty’s Elegant banquets in Bensenville, IL. TAGC is devoted to the awareness and promotion of Telugu Heritage and Culture in the Midwest region headquartered in Chicago, The association was originally founded in 1971 and it  recently completed its golden jubilee celebration and entered into its 51st year.

Over 350 women of Indian origin participated in this women’s day event. Program started with a devotional song by Singer Ramya and lighting the lamp by Uma Avadhuta, President of TAGC 2022, Women’s Day Chairs Sirisha Madduri, Archana Podduturi and Co chairs Ramya Nagulavancha, Ramya Kapila and Deepa Gudipally. All the other women’s Bod’s Vinitha Podduturi, Manasa Lattupalli, Neelima Cheikicharla, Prasanna Kandukuri and Madhavi Konakalla were also present. This year’s theme was Retro Style where all the ladies came out in their best retro looks. All the ladies were excited to show off their beautiful outfits and style. Anchor Sahithya Vinjamuri was an addition to enthusiasm in ladies.

Speaker Deepthi Suri provided very valuable information and great insight on the benefits of Ayurveda in our daily lives. Several fun filled activities were meticulously planned and executed to create a joyful atmosphere in the event that were thoroughly enjoyed by all the ladies after 2 years of pandemic situation. Special games like selfie Lele, Bomma blockbuster and Naari Shakthi by co-chairs engaged and entertained everyone.

Continuing with the core values and traditions of TAGC, this year also the members raised money for a non-profit organization named Suguna Foundation with operations in west Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, India which supports care and living for needy seniors.  There was an overwhelming response and contribution this year which is among one of the top fundraising amounts. Regal Jewelers sponsored gold and silver coins for raffle tickets. Special gifts from India to attended TAGC members was an additional attraction of the event.

First time in the last 50 years TAGC conducted Mrs. TAGC competition which received a huge response from everyone. Judges Prachi Jaitly, Vasavi Chakka and Neelam Saboo coordinated talent and question rounds to finalize on winners. Swetha Chinnari was the title winner and Poonam Patil and Archana Ramakrishna were the first and second runners ups respectively.

All members enjoyed the sumptuous snacks and dinner sponsored by Hyderabad House in Schaumburg, IL. Food Chair Srinivas Adepu and Co.chair Rama Kanth Jonnala coordinated very well and organized the food. Membership chair Madhavi Konakalla with the help of Manasa Lattupalli helped at the front desk in registrations and took it very smoothly. Treasurer Santosh Konduri, Jt treasurer Sridhar Alavala and Secretary Pandu Ranga Reddy were also present to help in checking in all the ladies. Decoration team chair Neelima Cheikicharla did an excellent job in coordinating with the decoration team. Retro style photo booth was the highlight of the event. Event ended with cake cutting and DJ by Pranav Sai with technical help by Srikanth Bethi.

TAGC president Uma Avadhuta thanked Past President Venkat Gunuganti and President elect Parameshwar Yarasani and also involved Board members and Volunteers to make the event grand success and congratulated all the beauty contest winners. She also thanked all the sponsors for the event and donors who gave the donations for a great cause.

Maneesh Media, International University of Vedic Wellness Present Book Launch At Women’s Day Celebration

Maneesh Media along with International University of Vedic Wellness unveiled a spectacular event to commemorate the International Women’s Day celebration and the launch of Maneesh Media’s new book, “India Calling 2022” on March 8th, 2022 at the Marriot in Hoffman Estates, IL. India Calling 2022 is a new book celebrating India’s Prime Minister, Modiji’s mother Heeraben Modi who is 102 years of age! This book also depicts the 113 magnificent foreign trips of the Indian Prime Minister Modiji and the outcome of those trips during his leadership

The International Women’s Day is celebrated across the world to honor the remarkable hard work and achievements of women in every field. This extraordinary event also acknowledged women’s empowerment by honoring the significant efforts of women to make the world a better place to live in. A life of dignity is the birthright of every woman. Women’s empowerment is key to advancing the development of every country. Empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families and communities and improved prospects for the next generation.

Dr. Mrs. Santosh Kulshrestha Kumar – Founding Executive Director, of Metropolitan Asian Family Services, Universal Metro Asian Services, and International University of Vedic Wellness, along with Mr. Chandmal Kumawat – Chairman of Maneesh Media partnered and made possible this historic event. Dr. Mrs, Kumar was named as “Mother Theresa of Chicago” for her dedication to fulfilling the needs of the downtrodden and her selfless community service for more than 40 years. Through her organizations, Dr. Mrs. Kumar has Established a proven successful multi, disciplinary pathway to the empowerment of Seniors Citizens over the past 30 years.

Mrs. Kumar has provided a broad framework for collective action for senior citizens to nurture their innate talents, enrich their groundbreaking ideas and engage in innovative experiences which has become a global model. She has achieved this by providing critically needed services to multiethnic senior citizen population especially the Indian diaspora with employment opportunities, creating more than 10,000 jobs per year, homecare services to over 10,000 homebound seniors mostly Indian diaspora every year by integrating state of art technology with a human touch in this digital age. Her model of service is being replicated in several parts of the world including India.

Mrs Santosh Kumar who established a global network and a functional platform, took painstaking efforts to propagate and promote India’s Prime Minister Modi New India in USA and India. Mrs Santosh Kumar motivated and sensitized the Indian Americans and the gatekeepers of minority communities in India to Prime Minister Modis Vision for Development of all. Mrs Santosh Kumar is a beacon of hope and lighthouse of service and care to the vulnerable Indian American Senior Population during this COVID 19 Pandemic.

International University of Vedic Wellness Center’s mission is to provide wisdom, peace, and stability through ancient knowledge, consequently, leading to a stress-free and pain-free lifestyle for all. Attaining this kind of lifestyle will aid in sustaining a more stable and peaceful world and avoid wars in the present time like the Russia/Ukraine War!!!

The event commenced with the lighting of the lamp by Dr. Mrs. Santosh Kumar, Mr. Neil Khot, Mr. Kishor Mehta, Acharya Rohit Joshi, Dr. Rakesh Asthana, Mr. Chandmal Kumawat and Ms. Marta Pereya. Roshita Pandey and Radhika Subramanian did a great job of compering. Dr. Mrs. Santosh Kumar began her welcoming speech by shedding light on the importance of women and encouraged every woman to stand for her rights. She soulfully thanked Mrs. Heeraben Modi for providing to the world such a treasure, Prime Minister Modiji! She praised Modiji for he lives the philosophy of ancient Vedas which believes that the whole world is one family living in Peace, Harmony, and Prosperity!

The Kashmir Files – A Movie On Exodus Of Kashmir Pandits

Kashmir silk is more popularly known worldwide, than the name of Kashmiri Pandits so far. But the new sensitive movie “ The Kashmir Files”  exposes some of the historic events and the flight of Kashmir Pandits, to the present generation.

The Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, (also known as “Kashmiri Pandits), is the migration, or the flight on a  large-scale, that caused their displacement from the Kashmir Valley in 1990, makes the story of Kashmir Files, worth seeing.

Even before its release, ‘The Kashmir Files’ was becoming a hit with tremendous pre-release hype. Directed by Vivek Agnihotri, the film tells the story of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. The film, released in theaters few days ago, is getting a good response from the audience.

Many of us would have watched some of the old movies on Hindu-Muslim Riots, with themes of Babri Masjid to Bombay Bombing like, Delhi-6 (2009), Bombay (1995)! Firaaq (2008)! Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001)! Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002). Surprisingly these commercial movies are aimed at both communities, and most of them turned blockbusters, taking advantage of the rivalry in their minds.

According to the Census from 1889 to 1941, Kashmiri Pandits, or Kashmiri Hindus, constituted between 4% and 6% of the population of the Kashmir valley. The rest of the population was Kashmiri Muslim. History says that by early 1990, the vast majority of Kashmiri Hindus fled the valley. “According to an estimate, approximately 100,000 of an estimated Kashmiri Pandit population of 140,000 left in the span of a few weeks in February–March 1990 alone”. Hindu-Muslim polarization in India over the years, in turn fueling the Hindu-Muslim chasm in the Valley. The issue of the Kashmiri Pandits return are an important side of the Kashmir File story.

Many reports show that, 1724 people have been killed by militants in Kashmir in the last three decades, more than 1,600 Muslims. According to Kapoor, Kashmiri Pandits make up about 5% of those killed by militants in Kashmir. The remaining 95 percent are from the Muslim community. The Pandits began leaving the valley on January 19, 1990. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 100,000 Pandits left the valley “with the encouragement and assistance of the government.”

With the Pandits evacuating, the government pressured the Pandits to leave the area, hoping for more comprehensive retaliation against Muslims. However, after the departure, various right-wing Hindu groups used Kashmiri Pandits as ‘victims’.

Accompanied by captured campaigns, the film reached the limelight. The film ‘highlights’ the plight of Kashmiri Pandits who suffered during the riots of the 90s. Many scenes of  people chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and other Hindu slogans outside cinema halls have already been widely circulated on social media. Meanwhile, the Kashmiri Pandit issue is being used by the Sangh Parivar as a tool to implement their oligarchy.

Shortly after its release, the film began making headlines. Many have described it as a true representation of the conflict in the Valley. The film depicts the plight of the Pandits in silver screen and seeks to demonize the Kashmiri Muslims. Following the release, the film has been widely used by the media and Sangh Parivar social media handles to spread anti-Muslim sentiment. While the film claims that 650 Kashmiri Pandits were killed after the riots of the 1990s.The Valley is keeping a criminal silence on the more than 1.5 million Kashmiri people who have been murdered over the decades

Director Vivek Agnihotri’s  courageous film is based on the experiences of individuals who were directly affected by the Kashmir riots. The length of the film is two hours and 50 minutes. The film is based on actual events and stars Mithun Chakraborty, Anupam Kher, Darshan Kumar, Pallavi Joshi, Chinmayi Mandlekar, Puneet Issar, Prakash Belavadi, Atul Srivastava and Mrinal Kulkarni in the lead roles.

The film begins in 1990, when the riots in Kashmir escalated. After explaining the severity of the situation, the story goes to the present. The film begins with children playing cricket and ends in a tomb. There are also reactions that the hours in between made the film tense in the audience’s minds.

No doubt, the characters in the film, including Anupam Kher, were excellent, and it will be an excellent contribution to Indian cinema. Before its release, the film received rave reviews from both audiences as it represents bitter truth that shakes the viewers inside out. Unfortunately, that is why the film is getting negative reviews. The neutrals believe that a film based on such sensitive issues will further widen the divide in the Valley and India in general, hope it does not happen as such – “that makes the viewers numb and silent even in the  corridors of the theaters while exiting”.

Bhishma Or Shakuni!

When a Malayalam movie is widely publicized as a brilliant work of stylish screenplay, if people all over the world are compelled to watch it on curiosity, it’s worth critiquing. A decent movie review should be an unbiased original opinion without thinking about what mainstream media writes in bold letters.

Bheeshmaparvam was probably the most anticipated Malayalam movie; after the superhit pictures like BigB, Priest, and One, all flourished with the name of Super Star Mammootty. Now, after 15 years, Amal Neerad and Mammootty joined together, and the fans were, no doubt, expecting a hype with this picture. Even within five days of Its release, media started announcing that Mammootti’s Bheeshmaparvam broke the record collection of Mohanlal’s Lucifer.

It seems that Bheeshmaparvam was created to fit the age of Mammootty and within the limited resources and locations due to Covid restrictions.

The storyline runs with the ancestral flashback, and the introduction of characters itself is so confusing that the average viewer will struggle to find the relation between the characters.Follows a chaotic, tender aristocratic, but notorious ‘Anjootti family’ that is on a road trip across a rugged landscape and fussing over the patriarchal leadership of Michael, who is not even the eldest son in the family tree. Only the mysterious older brother is quiet but obeys Michael for the good of the big family. Amal Neerad has shown extensive expertise to mimic the old movie GodFather by all means. Anand’s high-tech camera and Vivek’s editing styles created a widescreen set up to accommodate the Megastar to entertain Malayalees indeed.

No doubt, Mammootti’s heroic looks with his screen presence made the character of Michael unique. However, since Bheeshmaparvam is not a one-man-show, sufficient space has been provided for the other prominent personalities of Saubin Shahir, Shine Tom Chacko, Fahraan Fasil, Sreenath Bhasi, Dileesh Pothen, paarvathi Mala, Lena, Nadia Moidu, AnasuyavBhardwaj,etc.

It is heart touching to see the legends, Nedumudi Venu and KPAC Lalitha, appearing in their old looks for the last time for Malayalis, who mourn for their recent passing away.

Michael’s patriarchal role is not acceptable to the younger generation in the story. That envisaged enough room for the Director to mix up religious hatreds and some other hidden agenda. Kochi- Mattancherry lobby has been attempting to precipitate hate against the Christian community, which may be a good plot for a giant movie; that is the commercial aspect of movie lobbies.

Just because Superstars like Mammootty or Mohanlal is in the leading role, there is a notion that the movie will be successful. Still, recently we have been proving wrong with the prevailing ideas. So I would like to highlight the solid negative side of the plot of the so-called Big Movie. It is not against Mammootty or other stars, who all did well in their roles. Let it be exposed that the story of this movie has its evil hidden agenda.

As mentioned earlier, a set of new-gen story writers and directors have been adopting a hidden formula cleverly. They are mocking the Christian beliefs and traditions. For example, the movie “Trance” depicted hatred on Christian retreats and healing ministries- nobody protested. In this movie, a specific community is highlighted as good people throughout, whereas others are evil mongers and roots of all evils. Is it a good message for a highly harmonious state like Kerala?.

Another issue is with the side story of Christian girls are frantically running after Muslim relatives, or they are being trapped. A group of Christian mothers is plotting together with a few of their brothers against their church to get the girl married to a Muslim boy.A priest from this Anjootti Family is characterized as the villain, a portion of the family supports Muslim counterparts, and Christians in the family are projected as drug addicts and evil brats.

The worst part of the story happens when Michael, the patriarch, induces to kill his own Christian brothers for the benefit of the Muslim counterparts in the same family. The real killer is manifested and acknowledged by the hero himself. Is it not the hidden ideology to elevate the qualities of one religion as the only good creed of people. On the other hand, the Christian group is the nasty one creating all the atrocities. Is it true?

Bheeshma in the Mahabharata had at least some moral qualities, who acquired his prowess and invincibility with humility. In this movie, truly we are misguided with its name. We don’t find any Hindutwa nor a real Bheeshma, but only the rough games between Christian and Muslim groups. But revenge, much like every taut minute of this thriller, is far too addictive to give up until the bitter end.

We find only the crafty and devious “Shakuni” in this movie as a Megastar. It would have been apt to name it “ShakuniParvam” instead of Bheeshmaparvam!

What About Anti-Hindu, Anti-Sikh Phobias, Asks India At UN Meet On Islamophobia

On declaring March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia, India told the UN General Assembly that New Delhi wasn’t convinced that we need to elevate phobia against one religion to the level of an international day.

The UN General Assembly on Tuesday adopted a Pakistan-sponsored resolution to declare March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia, with India expressing concern at the elevation of the phobia against one religion to such a level while excluding others.

The resolution, introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), was adopted by consensus. It was backed by 57 members of OIC and eight other countries, including China and Russia.

Explaining India’s position on the resolution, TS Tirumurti, the country’s permanent representative to the UN, expressed deep concern at the rise in instances of discrimination, intolerance and violence against members of many religious communities in different parts of the world.

“Let me also state that we condemn all acts motivated by anti-Semitism, Christianophobia or Islamophobia. However, such phobias are not restricted to Abrahamic religions only,” he said.

Tirumurti noted that Hinduism has more than 1.2 billion followers, Buddhism more than 535 million and Sikhism more than 30 million, and said the time had come to acknowledge the “prevalence of religiophobia, rather than single out just one”.

He added, “It is in this context that we are concerned about elevating the phobia against one religion to the level of an international day, to the exclusion of all the others. Celebration of a religion is one thing but to commemorate the combating of hatred against one religion is quite another.”

Tirumurti also argued the resolution “may well end up downplaying the seriousness of phobias against all other religions”.

While explaining India’s position, Tirumurti cited what he contended were religion phobias that have affected the followers of non-Abrahamic religions, including “anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist and anti-Sikh phobias”.

“These contemporary forms of religiophobia can be witnessed in the increase in attacks on religious places of worship like gurudwaras, monasteries, temples etc or in spreading of hatred and disinformation against non-Abrahamic religions in many countries,” he said.

He also cited the destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, “violation of gurudwara premises, massacre of Sikh pilgrims in gurudwara, attack on temples, glorification of breaking of idols in temples” and said these incidents “contribute to the rise of contemporary forms of religiophobia against non-Abrahamic religions”.

Tirumurti said India, as a pluralistic and democratic country that is home to almost all world religions, has always welcomed “those persecuted around the world for their faith or belief”.

He said, “They have always found in India a safe haven shorn of persecution or discrimination. This is true whether they were Zoroastrians or Buddhists or Jews or people of any other faith. Therefore, it is with deep concern that we have viewed the growing manifestation of intolerance, discrimination or violence against followers of religions, including rise in sectarian violence, in some countries.”

Tirumurti said India is proud that pluralism is at “the core of our existence and we firmly believe in equal protection and promotion of all religions and faith”. In this context, he said, it was unfortunate that the word “pluralism” finds no mention in the resolution and its sponsors did not take on board India’s amendments to include the word in the text.

India hopes the resolution does not set a precedent which will divide the UN into “religious camps”, and it is important for the world body to remain above “religious matters which may seek to divide us rather than bring us together”, he said.

The representatives of France and the European Union also expressed reservations that the resolution singled out only Islam while religious intolerance is prevalent across the world.

A Call To Stand Up Against Impending Muslim Genocide In India

“Many of us need to understand the replacement theory, which has been developed in France, but the Hindu nationalists are using the same type of argument,” said Dr. Hatem Bazian, Professor of Islamic Law and Theology at Zaytuna College. “[They say] that the minorities who are coming to Europe, or the Mexicans who are coming to the United States, are attempting to replace the white race. In a similar way, Hindu nationalists [say] that the Muslims are attempting to replace Hinduism.”

“I [have written] about American political candidates and elected officials and their links or ties, their interactions with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), especially with their RSS and BJP affiliates here in the US,” said Pieter Friedrich, a freelance journalist specializing in analysis of affairs in South Asia. “Thanks to my relentless efforts to expose the RSS-BJP agenda in India and abroad, I was named in a press conference by Delhi police a year ago, and I am now presumably and sadly banned from India.”

“Hindus everywhere need to stand up and speak up against this really poisonous variant of Hindu nationalism that threatens to destroy not just the wonderful civilization and ethos that is India, but really a lot of communities everywhere in the world,” said Prof. Rohit Chopra, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Santa Clara University.

“How can I represent an India where Muslim girls and Muslim women are stripped of their head covering, which is part of their clothing, in the middle of the streets before they step into their schools and colleges? How can I represent an India where Muslim women are sold on an app on other online platforms?” said Dr. Samina Salim, Associate Professor in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Houston. “I do not represent this India where Muslim women are raped, killed, and burned alive. I am not proud of that India. This is an India I did not grow up in; this is an India that I do not identify with.”

The organizers of the event also stressed the importance of international solidarity with Indian Muslims.  “Muslims in India, who have contributed so immensely to India’s civilization, are being threatened and assaulted by Hindu extremists,” said Malcolme Morgan, Public Relations Director of Muslim Leadership Council of San Diego.  “We must unite together, whether we are Muslim or not, to hold the oppressive Indian government accountable for  spreading Islamophobia and inciting violence against Muslims minorities. Our rich heritage as Muslims can be seen from West Africa to East Asia. Unfortunately Muslims in India, who have contributed so immensely to India’s civilization, are being threatened and assaulted by Hindu extremists. We must unite together, whether we are Muslim or not, to hold the oppressive Indian government accountable for  spreading Islamophobia and inciting violence against Muslims minorities. This is not merely a case of religious rights being violated. This is an egregious human rights violation that must not be ignored,” added Mr. Morgan.

“Our event… was an important reminder that we must all be vocal and insistent on the need to bring attention to the dire situation of Muslims in India,” said Khalid Alexandre, President of Pillars Of The Community, San Diego.

The San Diego Coalition For Human Rights has reaffirmed its commitment to upholding India’s constitutional values of tolerance, pluralism, and secularism, where the human rights of all communities are upheld

SRK Announces Own OTTAPP

Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan, who recently set the pulse raising with ‘Pathan’ first look is now coming up with his own OTT platform called ‘SRK+’. The actor took to his Twitter to share the news with his followers.

Sharing a creative where he is seen giving a thumbs up next to the font ‘SRK+ coming soon’, he tweeted, “Kuch kuch hone wala hai, OTT ki duniya mein.”

In a surprising turn of events, filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, who is known as the flagbearer of independent cinema, quote-tweeted SRK’s tweet and announced his collaboration with King Khan’s OTT. Kashyap tweeted, “Dream come true! Collaborating with @iamsrk on his new OTT app, SRK+”.

Shah Rukh Khan had gone silent after his son Aryan Khan was involved in a controversy related to a drug bust case. Few days back, the Special Investigation Team of the Narcotics Control Bureau, had issued a statement saying that Aryan Khan was never in possession of drugs hence there was no need to take his phone and check his chats.

In addition, Aryan’s chats did not suggest that he was part of any international syndicate, NCB said.

Mount Everest Climbers Hold World’s Highest Tea Party

Andrew Hughes, an endurance athlete and adventurer, hosted the party along with his teammates as they sat down to have the hot beverage and snacks at a height of 21, 312 feet above sea level

A group of adventurers have set a new record on the mighty peaks of Mount Everest. And no, it’s not related to climbing!

The climbers held a tea party at a height of 21, 312 feet above sea level on Mount Everest’s Camp 2, setting a new Guinness World Record. The tea party was held last year and has been recognised by Guinness this month for being the world’s highest tea party.

Andrew Hughes, an endurance athlete and adventurer, hosted the party along with his teammates as they sat down to have the hot beverage and snacks at this staggering height.

Hughes shared that the idea for the record began during the pandemic in the Spring of 2020 in a post on Instagram. “When the world stopped and the mountains I climbed no longer were available to adventure to, I found time amidst the isolation and stillness of Covid to ponder the deeper meanings of my relationship to the mountains. For it was not summited I missed, but the sense of connection to nature and the community tied to these special places and peaks.”

“Tea on the mountain and in Nepal is more than the warmth within each cup. It is a way in which people come together and connect at the lodges along the trek into Everest Base Camp and while on the mountain,” he continued. “The warmth in hand also gives an opportunity to warm one’s heart and lift one’s spirit no matter the conditions outside and which you are facing.”

Further, Hughes shared that a lot of research was undertaken to determine the components that had to be included for a new world record to be recognised. “Next was determining what supplies had the durability to survive flying around the world, being transported by yak to base camp, then carried in backpacks through the Khumbu Icefalls and across the Western Cwm all the way up to Camp 2 on Everest,” he said.

The road to setting this record was not an easy one. As the team prepared for the record, a massive storm hit Camp 2. Huge snowfalls began to come down so Andrew made everyone get in their summit suits which they would wear for their summit attempts.

“With cold hands, I carried everything out to a flat spot in the middle of our tents where a fresh blanket of snow laid. Setting the table with everything as the snow coated everything. However, the joy for a small mental break from the summit days ahead of us to simply celebrate with one another, sip tea, and indulge on treats largely absent from our diet on the mountain made the snowstorm just an added unforgettable element to the entire record attempt.”

While many pursue mountain records for their individual accomplishments, the adventurer saw a shared opportunity in Spring last year. It was to use a world record as “a celebration of reconnecting from a long period of painful disconnect and moment of recognition with gratitude for the gift to be together again”.

Best Way To Fight With Your Partner, As Per Psychologists

When it comes to relationships, conflict is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be emotionally distressing or callous. Couples can disagree and, yes, even fight while still showing compassion and respect for each other, according to psychologists.

In fact, clinical psychologist Deborah Grody says, married couples who don’t have any conflict are often the ones who end in divorce. “Relationships that can’t be saved are relationships where the flame has completely gone out, or it wasn’t there in the first place,” she says. When one or both partners are indifferent toward their relationship, they don’t care enough to even fight, according to Grody.

That said, frequent heated and hurtful conflict is certainly not healthy or sustainable, either. You can have conflicts with your partner in a constructive way, and it may actually bring you closer together, according to a 2012 paper published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Researchers found that expressing anger to a romantic partner caused the short-term discomfort of anger, but also incited honest conversations that benefited the relationship in the long run.

If you want to navigate conflict with your partner in a healthier and more productive way, keep these things in mind during your next argument:

Be curious about your fights

During counseling sessions, Noam Ostrander, an associate professor of social work at DePaul University, often asks couples, “What does the 5:30 fight look like on weekdays?”

“They sort of smile because they know,” says Ostrander. That’s because, Ostrander says, couples often have the same fight over and over — almost following a script — without solving anything.

A common cause of “the 5:30 fight,” Ostrander says, is one partner wanting to tell the other about their day, and the other partner avoiding it — needing a minute to decompress after getting home from work. This likely leads to one partner accusing the other of not caring about them, and the other partner feeling attacked.

Instead, Ostrander encourages couples to pinpoint what triggers this repetitive fight, and try out ways to compromise instead of allowing the conflict to erupt. Rather than following the same old script, notice that you fight when one person gets home, and suggest a new way around that. “You can say, ‘What if we just pause, say hello or kiss hello, give it 15 minutes, and come back together,’” Ostrander says. This way, both partners can communicate that they do want to hear about the other person’s day and together, find the best way to do that.

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Schedule a time for conflict

Despite having even the most open lines of communication, conflicts are still bound to happen. And when they do, it’s helpful to choose a time to talk through problems, according to Grody. “If you start to have a fight, say, ‘Let’s pick it up this evening, or another time when there’s time to discuss things,’” she says.

Setting aside time to work out disagreements allows both partners the space to regroup and prepare, Grody explains. They can think about the best way to communicate their feelings in a calmer, more rational way, so as to avoid the instinct of being defensive or accusatory. “Most of the time, things are said on impulse in the heat of anger,” says Grody. “But the words stay with us.”

Call a timeout if you or your partner needs one

During an argument, it’s common for one or both partners to enter “fight, flight or freeze” mode, according to Ostrander. Humans enter one of these modes when they think they may be in danger, he says. “Fight or flight” refers to when stress hormones activate to give people more energy to either fight the stressor or run from the situation. And “freeze” mode occurs when a person simply does not react at all, in hopes that the stressor loses interest in the fight, he says.

When a couple is in this precarious zone, problem solving is highly unlikely, because each person is solely focused on reacting to the perceived threat they feel from their partner. And if only one person is in the “fight, flight or freeze” mode, while the other is trying to resolve the issue, it can frustrate both people and escalate the fight, Ostrander says.

“If you’re really upset with someone and they’re trying to problem solve, it can feel like they’re not even listening,” he says. “I often encourage, in those moments, that someone needs to call a timeout.”

And you can frame this timeout in a way that doesn’t make your partner feel like you’re simply walking away. “Perhaps somebody says, ‘Okay, I want to have this conversation. I need like 10 minutes to calm down. I love you, I’m not going anywhere,’” Ostrander says. “‘We’re going to come back to this, we’re going to figure it out.’”

When returning to the discussion after the brief hiatus, both people will be in a better place to make real progress, Ostrander says.

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Make requests instead of complaints

Fights often start with the same two words: “You always.” Rather than asking their partner to do something they’d like them to do, like cleaning up around the house, people jump to make accusations, according to Ostrander.

“You’re not getting what you want, because of how you’re asking for it,” he says. It’s easier for people to ask their partner why they never do something than it is to simply request that they do it.

Saying, “I’m not feeling great. I’m stressed about the way the house looks. Would you mind picking some stuff up?” is more direct and respectful than putting your loved one down for his or her failure to meet your need, Ostrander says. It’s also more likely to result in your partner completing the task.

Listen, and ask your partner for clarification

When the time comes to sit down and talk about solving conflicts, Grody says the most important thing couples can do is to listen — without interrupting. This can be more challenging than it seems. If your loved one says he or she doesn’t feel heard, for example, you should listen until your partner is finished speaking, according to Grody. Then, ask for clarification if there is something you don’t quite understand.

Asking, “what makes you feel like I’m not listening?” is a much more tactful way to address your partner’s complaint than simply saying, “well, I’m listening, so you should feel heard,” Grody says. Making sure you’re holding eye contact and positioning your body toward your partner when he or she is speaking will also signal that you are listening. These small adjustments can prevent countless fights down the road, Grody says.

And of course, during any fight, insults and character assassinations should be avoided at all costs, according to Grody. “Once it gets to the point where there’s name calling and things like that, the discussion should stop,” she says. “It’s not going to go anywhere.” Couples can come back to the conversation when both parties have had time to cool down.

Learn the right way to apologize to your partner

Just as people have different love languages, Ostrander says we have different apology languages, too. It’s not enough to recognize that you’ve hurt your loved one and you owe them an apology: You have to know them enough to tailor your apology to their needs, according to Ostrander.

“Some people want big gestures and some people want, ‘I’m really sorry I hurt your feelings, and I will take steps not to do that again,’” says Ostrander. “The process is figuring out what’s meaningful for your partner.”

Boditech Med, Global Point-Of-Care Testing Leader Expands Operations To North America

Boditech Med, a global leader in point-of-care testing with more than 90 biomarker products, has announced its plans to expand its operations in North America. Boditech’s expansion begins with plans to open a new manufacturing site in the Miami, Florida, area. The company is also considering opportunities in other states, along with a partnership in Canada.

“In the U.S., it takes as long as three days for a patient to get diagnostic test results. During that time, informed decision making comes to a standstill, even while costs mount,” said Boditech Med co-founder and CEO Eui-Yul Choi, Ph.D. “At Boditech, we develop and manufacture point-of-care tests that deliver actionable results in 12 to 15 minutes. Our goal in the U.S. is to flip the diagnostic industry on its head so that patients get timely, quality care while the healthcare system minimizes waste.”

Founded in South Korea in 1998, Boditech Med markets and sells more than 90 biomarker products in 120 countries. Through its North American expansion, the publicly-traded company aims to improve the health and safety of patients and the effectiveness and workflows of clinicians in the U.S. and beyond.

Boditech offers highly reliable in-vitro diagnostic solutions that empower clinicians and patients to improve health through quick and reliable tests, available anywhere and anytime. Along with venous blood and plasma testing, Boditech’s product line includes technologies that enable accurate, thorough capillary blood tests, based on a small amount of blood from a finger prick.

Boditech is currently seeking approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for several diagnostic solutions in cardiac, cancer, hormone, infectious disease, and other therapeutic areas. Timelines and precise locations remain in the works. Boditech intends to hire hundreds of Americans to support its efforts.

Boditech intends to bring lower-cost, rapid testing that covers many critical areas of medicine, from cardiac health to cancer, to the country. Boditech also produces COVID-19 antibody and over-the-counter rapid antigen tests.

Boditech Med is a global leader in point-of-care testing with a decades-long track record of improving health and quality of life through innovative in-vitro diagnostic solutions. Since its launch in 1998, Boditech has developed 85 biomarkers, which support capillary blood, venous blood, and plasma testing, to meet customers’ evolving needs. Listed as a public company on the KOSDAQ, Boditech’s products aid patients and clinicians in 120 countries. Learn more about Boditech Med and how its in-vitro diagnostic are improving health worldwide: https://www.boditech.co.kr/en

Rev. Thomas J. Netto Consecrated As Archbishop Of Trivandrum Latin Archdiocese

Rev. Fr. Thomas J. Netto, born on December 29th, 1964 was installed as the Archbishop of the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum during a solemn episcopal ordination ceremony, attended by tens of thousands of devotees, religious, community, and political leaders at St Sebastian’s Church Grounds, Chreuvettukadu, Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala on Saturday, March 19th, 2022.

Archbishop  Netto, 58, is the second Archbishop of the Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram. Addressing the attendees at the conclusion of the ceremony, Archbishop Netto said the responsibility bestowed upon him was challenging but one he accepted with utmost humility.

Known among his priest friends and the larger Catholic community in Kerala, the state with the maximum number of Christians in the country, having as many as 20% of the state’s population being Christian, the newly consecrated Archbishop Netto is known for his simplicity, goodness at heart, down to earth approach and cordial relationship with one and all.

Archbishop Thomas J Netto was appointed as the archbishop of Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram during the Holy Mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral at Palayam over two months ago. He is known for his oratory and writing skills and had a key role in the publication of diocesan mouthpiece Jeevanum Velichavum.

The nearly four hours long liturgical and felicitation ceremony began with a reception accorded to the Archbishop-designate who was led to the venue in the accompaniment of nearly 20 Metropolitans representing various dioceses and denominations and several clergy members. M. Soosa Pakiam, the Apostolic Administrator of the Thiruvananthapuram Archbishop, was the chief celebrant for the episcopal ordination. He presented the episcopal ring along with the staff and miter to the newly-ordained Archbishop.

Both the Latin and the Malayalam translation of the Papal order appointing Msgr. Netto as the Archbishop of Thiruvananthapuram was read out at the ceremony that was attended by Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, the Vatican’s Apostolic Envoy to India. In his message, the Vatican ecclesiastical diplomat said he viewed Kerala to be known for its religious places of worship, Carnatic music that combines both Indian and Dravidian culture, the Periyar river that is its ‘lifeline’ and its highest literacy level in the country, among other unique features.

The archbishop was anointed with the oil of sacred chrism, ring placed on his finger, the miter on his head, and given the pastoral staff. Thereafter, the ‘Laying on of Hands’ ceremony was held followed by the Prayer of Ordination. Earlier, the installation commenced with the Archdiocesan Chancellor Monsignor C. Joseph making the customary request to ordain Monsignor Netto. The co-celebrants included Varappuzha Archbishop Joseph Kalathiparambil and Neyyattinkara Bishop Vincent Samuel.

Delivering the benediction, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, Major Archbishop-Catholicos of Malankara Syrian Catholic Church, called upon the new Archbishop to lead the coastal population from the front for their rights and betterment. The benefactors of such efforts must not be the parishioners alone, but the entire community in the region. He also recounted the selfless deeds of the fisher-folks in rescuing those stranded in the floods of 2018.

Elected representatives from the Kerala state, including Transport Minister Antony Raju, Shashi Tharoor, MP, Kadakampally Surendran, M. Vincent, several MLAs, were among those who turned up to witness the ceremony.

The new archbishop was appointed, after the retiring Archbishop Soosapakiam, who turned 75 last March, 2021, had submitted his resignation as per the Canon Law. His Holiness Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Most Rev. Maria Callist Soosa Pakiam (75) on February 2nd, 2022. Archbishop Pakiam, who was born on March 11th, 1946 at Marthandumthurai, Tamilnadu was ordained a priest on December 20th, 1969. At the age of 43, he was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Trivandrum Diocese and ordained Bishop on February 2nd, 1990. He was succeeded Bishop of Trivandrum on January 31st, 1991 at the age of 44. When the Trivandrum diocese was elevated as the Archdiocese on  June 17, 2004 he became the first Metropolitan Archbishop and was installed as the Archbishop of Trivandrum on August 23rd, 2004.

Rev. Fr. Thomas J. Netto was born to Jessayan Netto and Isabella Netto on December 29, 1964.An alumnus of St. Xavier’s College, Thumba, he attended the St. Vincent’s Minor Seminary at Palayam. After attending St. Vincent’s Minor Seminary in Trivandrum (1980-1983), he studied Philosophy at St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary, Carmelgiri, followed by Theology at St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary, Mangalapuzha, Alwaye.  Archbishop Netto holds a M. A. Degree in Sociology from the University of Kerala and, in 1999, he obtained a Doctorate in Dogmatic Theology (Ecclesiology) from the Pontificia Università Urbaniana.

During his long pastoral ministry, serving the Church, Archbishop Netto has held the following offices: He was the parish vicar in Peringamala (1990-1991) and of the Cathedral of Palayam (1991-1995) and executive secretary for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue (1994-1995).  He then served as parish priest in Pettah (1999-2003), and executive secretary for the Basic Christian Communities (2000-2004) and rector of Saint Vincent’s Minor Seminary in Trivandrum (2003-2010).

Since 2007, he has served as a member of the College of Consultors, director of the Board for Clergy and Religious Life (2008-2010), chargé at Saint Anthony’s Forane Church in Valiayathura (2009-2010), parish priest in Thope, coordinator (2010-2014) and episcopal vicar of Ministers (2014-2018).  From 2018 to the present, he served as parish priest of Saint Augustine’s Church, Murukumpuzha, vicar forane of Kazhakkuttom and editor of the diocesan journal Jeevanum Velichavum.

Christianity claims its presence in Kerala since the 1st century itself. Its inception was supposed to be by 52 AD with the arrival of St. Thomas, the Apostle, in this land. However, Christianity in the Latin archdiocese of Trivandrum dates back to the time of the arrival of the Portuguese in India and perhaps earlier. With the arrival of the Portuguese but especially with the advent of the pioneer missionary, St Francis Xavier, Christianity spread far and wide in these parts with the result that by the close of the sixteenth century there were well-established Christian communities along the Trivandrum coast.

The saintly Bishop Benziger who became coadjutor Bishop of Quilon in 1900 and Bishop in 1905 was the apostle who propagated Christianity in the Diocese through the fragrance of his saintly life, wise leadership and unceasing assistance to his missionary priests. In 1931 when he retired to the Carmel Hill Monastery, Trivandrum, there were Christian communities established in almost all places of the interior region .As early as 1919, Bishop Benziger recommended the establishment of the Diocese of Trivandrum, but it materialized only after his retirement.

The diocese of Trivandrum was established by His Holiness Pope Pius XI on July 1, 1937 through the Bull “In Ora Malabarica” with the four taluks of Neyyantinkara, Nedumangad, Trivandrum and Chirayinkeezh bifurcated from the diocese of Quilon.

The Diocese is bounded on the north by the Diocese of Quilon, on the east by the Ghats, on the west by the Arabian Sea and on the south by the Dioceses of Kottar and Kuzhithurai. The Archdiocese of Trivandrum is one of the largest dioceses of Kerala, having a Catholic population of over 250,000 Catholics, with a majority of the 90 percent of the faithful belonging to the traditional fishing community, who are among the lowest ranks of the ladder of the social strata in India, but are rich in faith and customs/traditions.

In the year 2004 Pope John Paul II was pleased to elevate Trivandrum diocese as an Archdiocese with Alappuzha, Kollam, Punalur and Neyyatinkara as its suffragent dioceses. Bishop Soosa Pakiam was elevated as the first Archbishop of this ecclesiastical region.

The Archdiocese celebrated its platinum jubilee in 2012, marking the entry into the adult age of diocesan activities. A new diocese of Neyyattinkara was bifurcated from Trivandrum on June 14th, 1996 by His Holiness Pope John Paul II through the Apostolic Bull ‘Ad Aptius Provehendum.’  Trivandrum was raised to the status of Archdiocese on June 17th, 2004 by His Holiness Pope John Paul II. The archdiocese now comprises of a large part of the Trivandrum district and a section of the costal parishes in the district of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu.

Previous Ordinaries, who had led the strong Latin Catholic community of Trivandrum archdiocese were:  Archbishop Maria Calist Soosa Pakiam (31 Jan 1991 Succeeded – 2 Feb 2022 Retired); Archbishop Jacob Acharuparambil OFM Cap (1979-1991); Archbishop Peter Bernard Pereira (1966-1978); and, Bishop Vincent Dereira OCD (1937-1966).  On February 2nd, 2016 Rev. Fr. Christudas Rajappan was appointed as the auxiliary bishop of the diocese and will continue to serve as the auxiliary bishop under the dynamic and talented leadership of the newly ordained Archbishop Thomas J. Netto.

Modi-Led BJP Wins 4/5 State Elections In India: Kejriwal’s AAP Expands To Punjab

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, won key state elections On March 10th that strengthen its position in national politics and offer a ringing endorsement of Modi’s vision of guiding India away from its secular founding principles.

In the battleground state of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP won 275 seats, winning a clear majority of the 403 seats that went to the polls, according to the Election Commission of India. The northern state is the country’s most populous and is considered a political bellwether. It sends more legislators to Parliament than any other state and was key to Modi’s victories in previous national elections. The party also swept back into power in the states of Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand. These results make Modi’s BJP the favorite to win the next national election, in 2024.

With its historic victory in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP showed its popular support overcame criticism of its stewardship of the economy, which has stalled amid soaring unemployment and inflation, and of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, which devastated the state. “Today is a day of celebration for Indian democracy,” Modi said. “The results vindicate the BJP’s pro-poor and proactive governance.”

The results from Uttar Pradesh indicate a “triumph” for the BJP, said Nalin Mehta, author of “The New BJP,” a recent book on the party and Modi. The party’s model of welfare — direct benefits transfers and provisions of free food grains to people during the pandemic — helped it “overcome the stresses of anti-incumbency and deep economic deprivation along with an unapologetic positioning of Hindu-ness,” Mehta said. “The broad social coalition across caste and class that powered BJP’s victories since 2014 has not only remained intact, but deepened its roots.”

In the agrarian state of Punjab in northern India, a regional party known as the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party, or AAP, won handsomely over the incumbent Indian National Congress. With its victory in Punjab, the AAP, which controls the Delhi capital region, became the first regional party in decades to capture power in more than one state.

The AAP’s growing reach — and the dismal performance of the Congress party — casts doubt on the future of one of India’s most storied political parties and throws into question the Congress party’s status as the BJP’s main opponent at the national level. Raghav Chadha, a leader of the AAP, told New Delhi Television that his party will be the “national and natural replacement” of the Congress party.

But the BJP’s win in Uttar Pradesh, experts say, again reinforces the dominance of the 71-year-old Modi in the country of more than 1.3 billion people for the foreseeable future. Modi in recent years has grown a long white beard, a move seen as an attempt to cast himself as a sage-like figure towering over the country’s contemporary political life.

Politics in Uttar Pradesh has long been dominated by parties catering to various castes. Under Modi, the BJP successfully brought under its umbrella voters from different castes who identify as Hindu first.

The results also indicate the emphasis on welfare politics in the country. While BJP’s victory in the states can be attributed to the welfare schemes and its effective delivery system, cutting across caste and religious lines, Kejriwal’s politics are appreciated by voters because of its focus on the welfare aspects.

The AAP’s emergence in Punjab with a splendid performance is going to create ripples that could lead to realignments at the national level too. Political observers who watch AAP closely see this performance as an endorsement of Kejriwal as a prospective national leader against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A little over eight years after it emerged as a formidable force in Delhi by unseating the Congress and leaving the BJP diminished, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is cruising to victory in Punjab by steamrolling the traditional players, heralding a tectonic shift in Indian politics.

The latest victory is likely to help the BJP forge ahead with its controversial agenda, including implementing a citizenship law that excluded Muslims from its ambit and had been pushed to the back burner after nationwide protests. Indian right-wing hard-liners also could push for their long-standing demands, such as a national civil code, which would override religious laws on matters including marriage and inheritance.

The bitterly fought state elections, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, have been held in staggered phases over more than a month. They were billed as a battle for India’s future, in which voter preferences would either burnish the BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda or challenge what critics call the country’s tilt toward illiberal democracy.

A recent report by the Swedish V-Dem Institute, which maps the state of democracies in the world, said India was among the top 10 countries sliding into authoritarianism, a group that V-Dem says includes Brazil and Hungary. The U.S.-based nonprofit Freedom House, which assesses political rights and civil liberties globally, listed India as “partly free” for a second consecutive year in 2022, noting its decline in civil liberties.

As the incumbent party going into the crucial Uttar Pradesh elections, the BJP faced a patchy governance record. Last year, the state was one of the worst-hit when the ferocious delta wave of the coronavirus pandemic swept the country and overwhelmed the health infrastructure. Corpses floated in the sacred Ganges river and were buried on sandbanks, revealing an enormous toll not always reflected in official figures, experts said.

For the Congress Party, its footprint shrunk to just two states, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, from the nine it had when Narendra Modi took charge in 2014. Congress president Sonia Gandhi signaled that the meeting of the party’s Working Committee will be called soon to discuss the way ahead but several leaders media spoke to were groping in the dark. Some younger leaders, referring to the landslide AAP victory in Punjab, did argue that the “old and jaded” need to make way for fresh blood.

Modi said that some political experts had said the results of polls in five states in 2017 decided the results of the general election in 2019, which the BJP won with a sweeping majority. “I believe this time also they will say that the results of 2022 have decided the results of 2024,” he said.

Russia Against Humanity Witnessed In Besieged Ukrainia

People with loved ones trapped inside the besieged city of Mariupol in Ukrainewere trying desperately to connect to phones inside the city, which has been virtually cut off from the outside world by an escalating and indiscriminate bombing campaign by Russian forces.

As the Putin sent forces invade and destroy Ukraine, there is a loud and growing chorus of calls for the International Criminal Court to pursue Vladimir Putin. On March 2, the court said it would immediately proceed with an active investigation of possible war crimes following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The US Embassy in Kyiv said two days later that Russia committed a war crime by attacking a nuclear power plant in Ukraine. “It is a war crime to attack a nuclear power plant,” the embassy said on its official Twitter feed. “Putin’s shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear plant takes his reign of terror one step further.”

Russia’s suspected use of cluster bombs and so-called vacuum bombs in dense areas with many civilians has also been described as a war crime. Mariupol, a city of about 400,000, is a key strategic target for Russia because seizing it would allow Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine to join forces with troops in Crimea, the southern peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

The city has now been subjected to nine days of heavy bombardment by Russian forces, destroying apartment buildings and flattening residential areas. Footage verified by the BBC showed shelling on Thursday, confirming a statement by the city council that the bombardment was ongoing.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said that the situation in Mariupol was the most difficult in the country. Municipal authorities have finally been able to begin collecting and burying bodies which had been in the streets, the deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov told the BBC on Thursday. City officials estimated 1,300 civilians had been killed so far, Mr Orlov said.

“There is no possibility of private graves, because of the high numbers and because of the continuous shelling. They are being put into mass graves,” he said. Ms Berg said the news of the mass graves had spread through the Telegram chat groups people are using to monitor the situation inside the city. “We have no news from our friends, all we know is they could be buried in those mass graves,” she said.

Numerous planned evacuation attempts for Mariupol residents have collapsed over the past five days after Russian forces have resumed shelling the city, despite ceasefire agreements. Mr Orlov said city officials were ready at any moment to put evacuation plans into place but no agreement could be reached with Russia on establishing a humanitarian corridor. There are growing fears now of a serious humanitarian crisis inside Mariupol, following widespread reports that people were trying to take water from snow and had no access to food or medicines.

Russia claimed on Thursday that the maternity ward destroyed in the attack had been taken over by Ukrainian troops long before it was hit, but images from the scene captured by the Associated Press news agency showed medical staff outside after the blast and a pregnant woman being carried out of the building in a stretcher. “Thank god most of the people there were in the bomb shelter already,” Mr Orlov, the deputy mayor said. “Otherwise it would have been much worse.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the strike an “atrocity” and reiterated his call for world powers to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine – a request that has so far been denied. The foreign minister, Mr Kuleba said on Thursday that his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov had told Ukrainian officials Russia would continue its aggression until Ukraine met all its demands, including surrender.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the UN General Assembly on March 2 that Russia was preparing to use these weapons.  The US is concerned Putin and the Russian military will become more brutal since the invasion is not going as smoothly as they had planned.

“One thing is certain, that intentionally directing shelling or targeting civilians or civilian objects is a crime within the jurisdiction of the court,” the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on March 3. “And even if there’s military necessity, there’s a clear obligation upon parties to a conflict to not use disproportionate force, to make sure the ordnance used and the weapons don’t have a very wide footprint in heavy civilian areas,” said Khan.

“Whether it’s cluster bombs or thermobaric weapons, commanders in the battlefield need to use great discretion and with great diligence decide how they wish to wage conflict now that it started,” Khan told the media. “And the law is here and the court is watching, and we have experts that will try to get to the bottom of it,” he said.

“I want to be very clear about this, that Mr. Putin is a war criminal,” former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the Council on Foreign Relations recently. “He has to sit behind the bars in International Criminal Court.”

Inflation, War Push Stress To Alarming Levels At Two-Year COVID-19 Anniversary

Newswise — Two years after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, inflation, money issues and the war in Ukraine have pushed U.S. stress to alarming levels, according to polls conducted for the American Psychological Association.

A late-breaking poll, fielded March 1–3 by The Harris Poll on behalf of APA, revealed striking findings, with more adults rating inflation and issues related to the invasion of Ukraine as stressors than any other issue asked about in the 15-year history of the Stress in AmericaTM poll. This comes on top of money stress at the highest recorded level since 2015, according to a broader Stress in America poll fielded last month.

Top sources of stress were the rise in prices of everyday items due to inflation (e.g., gas prices, energy bills, grocery costs, etc.) (cited by 87%), followed by supply chain issues (81%), global uncertainty (81%), Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (80%) and potential retaliation from Russia (e.g., in the form of cyberattacks or nuclear threats) (80%).

These stressors are coming at a time when the nation is still struggling to deal with the prolonged pandemic and its effects on our daily lives, with close to two-thirds of adults (63%) saying their life has been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While a majority (51%) reported this change as neither positive nor negative — simply different — the long-lasting implications of the pandemic are clear. The survey also revealed continued hardships for vulnerable populations, concerns for children’s development among parents and entrenched, unhealthy coping habits.

“The number of people who say they’re significantly stressed about these most recent events is stunning relative to what we’ve seen since we began the survey in 2007,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer. “Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope.”

A year ago, APA’s first pandemic anniversary survey found COVID-19-related stress was associated with unhealthy weight changes and increased drinking. The most recent survey confirmed that these unhealthy behaviors have persisted, suggesting that coping mechanisms have become entrenched — and that mental and physical health may be on a continuing decline for many as a result. Close to half of adults (47%) said they have been less active than they wanted to be since the pandemic started, and close to three in five (58%) reported experiencing undesired weight changes.

Among those who gained more weight than they wanted, the average amount of weight gained was 26 pounds, with a median of 15 pounds. On the other hand, the average amount of weight lost among those who lost more than they wanted to was 27 pounds, with a median of 15 pounds. More than one in five Americans (23%) said they have been drinking more alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic, with those who have been drinking more consuming an average of 10 drinks per week (and a median of six drinks per week) compared with an average of two drinks (and a median of one drink) per week among those who did not report drinking more.

Adults also reported separation and conflict as causes for straining and/or ending of relationships. Half of adults (51%, particularly essential workers at 61%) said they have loved ones they have not been able to see in person in the past two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Strikingly, more than half of all U.S. adults (58%) reported experiencing a relationship strain or end as a result of conflicts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including canceling events or gatherings due to COVID-19 concerns (29%); difference of opinion over some aspect of vaccines (25%); different views of the pandemic overall (25%); and difference of opinion over mask-wearing (24%).

Strained social relationships and reduced social support during the pandemic make coping with stress more difficult. In fact, more than half of respondents (56%) said that they could have used more emotional support than they received since the pandemic started. “We know from decades of research that healthy and supportive relationships are key to promoting resilience and building people’s mental wellness,” said Evans. “Particularly during periods of prolonged stress, it’s important that we facilitate opportunities for social connection and support.”

The majority of parents reported concerns regarding child(ren)’s development, including social life or development (73%), academic development (71%) and emotional health or development (71%). More than two-thirds of parents reported concern about the pandemic’s impact on their child’s cognitive development (68%) and their physical health/development (68%).

“Living through historic threats like these often has a lasting, traumatic impact on generations,” said Evans. “As a society, it’s important that we ensure access to evidence-based treatments and that we provide help to everyone who needs it. This means not only connecting those in distress with effective and efficient clinical care, but also mitigating risk for those more likely to experience challenges and engaging in prevention for those who are relatively healthy.”

More information on the findings and how to handle stress and trauma related to Ukraine is available at www.stressinamerica.org. APA psychologists are available for media interviews to discuss these findings and provide science-based recommendations on how to address this mental health crisis.

METHODOLOGY

The 2022 Pandemic Anniversary Survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association between Feb. 7–14, 2022, among 3,012 adults age 18+ who reside in the U.S. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Data were weighted to reflect proportions in the population based on the 2021 Current Population Survey (CPS) by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Weighting variables included age by gender, race/ethnicity, education, region, household income, and time spent online. Latino adults were also weighted for acculturation, taking into account respondents’ household language as well as their ability to read and speak in English and Spanish. Country of origin (U.S./non-U.S.) was also included for Latino and Asian subgroups.

Weighting variables for Gen Z adults (ages 18 to 25) included education, age by gender, race/ethnicity, region, household income, and size of household, based on the 2021 CPS. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris’ surveys. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.9 percentage points using a 95% confidence level.

This credible interval will be wider among subsets of the surveyed population of interest. All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to other multiple sources of error, which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including but not limited to coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.

The March late-breaking survey was conducted online within the United States between March 1–3, 2022, among 2,051 adults (age 18 and over) by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association via its Harris On Demand omnibus product. Data were weighted where necessary by age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, marital status, household size, household income, and propensity to be online, to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level.

Priya, 28-Year-Old, Sworn In As Chennai’s Youngest Mayor

Priya Rajan, a Dalit woman, has become the youngest mayor of Chennai (formerly Madras), the fourth-largest city in India with a population of around 10 million.

Rajan, 28, a postgraduate in commerce, was sworn in on March 4 as the 49th mayor of the city.

Welcoming the appointment, Father Vincent Chinnadurai, the former spokesperson of the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, said it was a remarkable moment for Dalit women.

“We appreciate the state government for this bold move. I am sure more women will feel inspired by Priya Rajan,” he added.

Chennai, the state capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, is a hub for education, health, information technology and automobile industries.

Considered the second-oldest city council in the world after London, the Greater Chennai Corporation was formed in 1668 by the erstwhile East India Company, which founded it in 1640 as a trading post.

It is an important milestone in Tamil Nadu’s political history that a Dalit woman is being placed as mayor of this big city. It is a sign of empowerment of a marginalized community

The state’s ruling DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or Dravidian Progressive Front) under the leadership of Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin, 68, won a landslide victory in the polls held on Feb. 19 after a gap of 11 years.

Rajan, a member of DMK, is also the third woman to hold this prestigious post and joins 10 women across the state who have been elected as mayors and chairpersons in various small cities and towns.

Capuchin Father Kulandai Swamy told UCA News: “It is an important milestone in Tamil Nadu’s political history that a Dalit woman is being placed as mayor of this big city. It is a sign of empowerment of a marginalized community.”

Father Swamy, a known social activist, said Rajan’s appointment “will blunt the [pro-Hindu] BJP’s communal propaganda in Tamil Nadu as it shows the willingness of Dravidian parties to uplift the Dalits.”

According to the modern Panchayat Raj system, the local body administrative system followed in India since 1992, the head of a city or town or village council is elected from among the elected members.

In Tamil Nadu, half the posts of heads of city corporations and town municipalities are reserved for women and other marginalized sections of society.

The post of Chennai mayor was reserved for a woman belonging to the Dalit (formerly untouchable) caste.

Empowering Dalits will not only improve their social stature but also reduce the atrocities perpetrated on them to a certain extent

Savukku Shankar, a political critic, told UCA News that “reserving the Chennai mayor’s post for a Dalit woman is a very important decision as regards empowerment of the marginalized.”

In the absence of a reservation policy, known as India’s affirmative action program, a Dalit becoming the elected head of a major city would have remained a dream only, Shankar said.

“Empowering Dalits will not only improve their social stature but also reduce the atrocities perpetrated on them to a certain extent. Such an affirmative action will go a long way in bringing Dalits to the mainstream,” he added.

According to the national census figures for 2021, Dalits make up 25 percent of India’s approximately 1.3 billion people. It is said that nearly 70 percent of Indian Christians come from Dalit castes.

Consul General Randhir K. Jaiswsal Meets Norwalk Mayor Along With GOPIO-CT Delegation

 Indian Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal and Deputy Consul General Dr. Varun Jeph came to Norwalk City on March 4th for a meeting with Mayor Harry Rilling. He was joined by officials of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin-Connecticut Chapter (GOPIO-CT).

Indian Americans have been settling in the lower Fairfield County which includes Norwalk for the last 3 decades and the flow is still continuing. Most of the community members moving in are in IT industry or healthcare.

Mayor Rilling told Consul General Jaiswal about the City and it is friendly environment for business including availability of office space to attract new businesses from India. Indian companies, especially in the IT sector, have been starting outfits in the USA and hoping that some of them could consider Norwalk as a destination. Consul General Jaiswal also suggested that companies from Norwalk could also consider India as a destination.

The delegation from GOPIO-CT consisted of GOPIO Intl. Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, GOPIO-CT President and serial investor Ashok Nichani, GOPIO-CT Exec. VP Prasad Chintalapudi who is also Vice President of IT Company Panzer Solutions, Laser Systems President Viresh Sharma, GOPIO-CT Secretary Prachi Narayan, GOPIO-CT Treasurer and IT Consultant Srinivas Akarapu, IT Consultant Mahesh Jhangiani along with his wife Yashasvi Jhangiani and Fr. Sudhir D’Souza who us the pastor of St. Philip Catholic Church in Norwalk.

 The delegation also emphasized the need for having a Cricket game ground for the new immigrant groups from South Asian nations, Caribbean, South Africa, Australia, England, Australia, New Zealand and East African countries. Such an initiative will make the city a more welcoming place for immigrant professionals from those countries.

GOPIO-CT has assigned a four-member committee to brainstorm the idea of reaching out Indian companies with the Norwalk City officials and India’s commercial attache in New York. Those assigned with this task are Norwalk residents Srinivas Akarapu, Mahesh Jhangiani, Prachi Narayan and Fr. Sudhir D’Souza.

There was also a suggestion that the Norwalk Community College should be connected to an Indian institution with similar programs. This will be explored further.

Over the last 16 years, GOPIO-CT, a chapter of GOPIO International has become an active and dynamic organization hosting interactive sessions with policy makers and academicians, community events, youth mentoring and networking workshops, and working with other area organizations to help create a better future. GOPIO-CT – Global Organization of People of Indian Origin – serves as a non-partisan, secular, civic and community service organization – promoting awareness of Indian culture, customs and contributions of the Indian Diaspora through community programs, forums, events and youth activities. It seeks to strengthen partnerships and create an ongoing dialogue with local communities.

At Vatican Women’s Day Event, A Call For Female Voices In Peace Talks

As European nations attempt to defend Ukraine without being pulled into a war, an ecumenical group of women representing charitable organizations around the world called for more female representation in peace talks and negotiations.

The occasion was an event called “Church and Society: Women as Builders of Dialogue,” organized by Caritas Internationalis, a global network of Catholic humanitarian organizations, and hosted by the British Embassy to the Holy See for International Women’s Day.

In a conflict shaping up as a face-off between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, known for posing shirtless and riding bears, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has captivated the world with his sometimes swaggering rhetoric, several of the women at Tuesday’s event noted the absence of women in the peace negotiations. 

Advocating for a peace process that is more diverse, Susana Raffalli, a nutrition adviser at Caritas Venezuela, who appeared via Zoom, was one of several speakers who praised women’s emphasis on dialogue. Women tend to be more concerned with “actually bringing commitments and agreements toward peace,” Raffalli said. In Venezuela, she said, women are more conscious of vulnerable populations’ stake in the peace process.

Tetiana Stawnychy, the president of Caritas in Ukraine, highlighted the tremendous efforts made by women on the front lines in Ukraine and in other conflict zones, including those working as first responders and as civilians to help the most vulnerable.

When war breaks out women are often portrayed chiefly as victims, said Rita Rhayem, a health and HIV adviser for Caritas Internationalis, and that obscures their role as first responders. To maximize women’s contribution to conflict resolution, she added, leaders need to “remove the barriers that confine women” and allow them to take public roles in responding to war.

Maria Immonen, director of the Department for World Service of the Lutheran World Federation, urged institutions and governments to uphold their commitments to promote female leadership, “ensuring that they have equal access to the tables where discussions are had and decisions are made.”

Aloysius John, the secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis and one of the few men to address the conference, said it is essential to reevaluate “the place and role of women in our societies,” not only at negotiation tables but wherever war has touched people’s lives.  

In this Feb. 15, 2021, file photo, Rohingya refugees headed to the Bhasan Char island prepare to board navy vessels from the southeastern port city of Chattogram, Bangladesh. (AP Photo, File)

Just returned from camps in Bangladesh, where Rohingya Muslims, forced from their homes in Myanmar, live in challenging conditions, John said he witnessed firsthand “the important role the women in these camps are playing to be constructors of dialogue and harmony.”

The Catholic Church is reexamining the role of women in its own institutions. Pope Francis has begun an ambitious project known as the Synod on Synodality aimed at reorienting the church’s power structures to focus on the needs of marginalized people, including women. The three-year consultations will result in a 2023 summit of bishops at the Vatican.

“If you really want to listen to the poorest then you have to listen to the women,” said Sister Nathalie Becquart, the undersecretary overseeing the synod and the first woman to hold such a post. Becquart described the synod as “a sandbox for women,” where new models for female inclusion can be developed and put into action.

Mindy Kaling Comedy Series ‘Never Have I Ever’ Gets Season 4

‘Never Have I Ever’, the comedy series co-created by Mindy Kaling and Lang, has been renewed for Season 4 at Netflix, which will also be the show’s last season, confirms ‘Variety’.

News of the fourth-season renewal comes before Season 3 of the series, whose star cast is led by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and Poorna Jagannathan, even has a premiere date. Production on the third season recently wrapped and it will debut over the coming summer.

Ramakrishnan essays the lead character, Devi, a first-generation Indian American teenager juggling the pressures of her home life, including grief over losing her father, with a complicated love triangle, evolving friendships and inner emotional turmoil best expressed by narrator John McEnroe, notes ‘Variety’.

“Hey Crickets, we’ve got some morning announcements for you: Season 3 of ‘Never Have I Ever’ is gonna drop this summer! Plus we’ve just been renewed for a fourth and final season, which we are absolutely thrilled about,” Kaling and Fisher tweeted.

“We can’t wait to reveal all the steamy romance and hilarious adventures we have in store for you. Thanks to all our fans for your support — especially you #Bevi and #Daxton stans. We love you!” the co-created added.

In addition to Ramakrishnan, Jagannathan and McEnroe, the cast includes Richa Moorjani, Jaren Lewison, Darren Barnet, Lee Rodriguez, Jez and Ramona Young.

Commenting on the fourth-season announcement, Bela Bajaria, head of global TV at Netflix, said: “We are thrilled to have two more seasons of ‘Never Have I Ever’. It’s everything we want in a Netflix comedy series: authentic, specific, funny, and full of heart. I love that a story I relate to so deeply — about a young, Indian-American girl — hits on so many universal truths that resonate with just about everyone.”

How Early Life Experiences May Affect Brain Wiring

Newswise — COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new study of brain development in mice shortly after birth may provide insights into how early life events can affect wiring patterns in the brain that manifest as disease later in life – specifically such disorders as schizophrenia, epilepsy and autism.

Researchers focused on two types of brain cells that have been linked to adult neurological disorders: neurons in a modulating system nestled deep in the brain and other neurons in the cortex, the brain’s outermost layer, that counteract excitation in other cells using inhibitory effects. The modulating cells send long-range cables to the cortex to remotely influence cortical cell activity.

The study is the first to show that these two types of cells communicate very early in brain development. A chemical released from the modulating cells initiates the branching, or arborization, of axons, the long, slender extensions of nerve cell bodies that transmit messages, on the cortical cells – and that arborization dictates how effective the cells in the cortex are at doing their job.

Though there is still a lot to learn about the impact of this cellular interaction in the postnatal brain, the researchers said the study opens the door to a better understanding of how neurological diseases in adults may relate to early-life events.

“It’s known that abnormal early-life experiences can impact kids’ future sensation and behavior. This finding may help explain that kind of mechanism,” said Hiroki Taniguchi, associate professor of pathology in The Ohio State University College of Medicine and senior author of the study.

“This study provides new insight into brain development and brain pathology. It’s possible that during development, depending on animals’ experiences, this modulating system activity can be changed and, accordingly, the cortical circuit wiring can be changed.”

Taniguchi completed the work with co-authors André Steinecke and McLean Bolton while he was an investigator at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience.

The research is published today (March 9, 2022) in the journal Science Advances.

The study involved chandelier cells, a type of inhibitory neurons in the cortical section of the brain, and neurons of the cholinergic system – one of the systems that monitor the environment and the internal state, and send signals to the rest of the brain to trigger memory and appropriate behaviors.

“Both of these types of cells have been separately studied in the context of adult functions or modulations so far. The developmental role of cholinergic neurons in the brain wiring remains poorly understood,” Taniguchi said.

Chandelier cells are named for the spray of signal-transmitting synapses (called synaptic cartridges) at the branch terminals that resemble candles of a traditional chandelier, a pattern that gives them inhibitory control over hundreds of cells at a time.

“These cells have output control,” said Steinecke, first author of the study who is now working at Neuway Pharma in Germany. “Chandelier cells can put a brake on excitatory cells and tell them they’re not ready to fire. As inhibitory cells, chandelier cells are thought to regulate waves of firing – which is important, because the waves contain information that is transmitted over large distances of the brain.”

Previous post-mortem studies have shown that the synaptic terminals located at the end of chandelier cell axons appear to be reduced in the brains of patients with schizophrenia.

“This axonal ‘arbor’ being reduced suggests they don’t make as many connections to downstream targets, and the connections themselves are also altered and don’t work that well,” Steinecke said.

The team used two techniques to observe chandelier cells during early-life brain development in mice: genetically targeting and using a dye to label and detect cells that differentiate into chandelier cells, and transplanting genetically manipulated cells back into animals shortly after birth. “This enabled us to watch brain development as it happens and manipulate conditions to test what the mechanisms are,” Taniguchi said.

The researchers first observed how chandelier cell axons develop their branching structures, noting that small protrusions emerging from axons were the first signs that branches would sprout. And they identified the chemical needed to start that sprouting process – the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is released by cholinergic system cells.

The interaction between the distant cell types was confirmed through a series of experiments: Knocking out receptors that bind to acetylcholine and decreasing activity of cholinergic neurons lessened branch development, and making cholinergic neurons more likely to fire led to more widespread branching.

“The key is that we didn’t previously know how neuromodulatory systems regulate the cortical circuits – and both of them have been implicated in brain diseases,” Taniguchi said. “Now that we’ve found that cholinergic neurons could remotely impact cortical circuit development, especially cortical inhibitory signals, the question is what kind of environment or emotional state of change can impact cortical inhibitors’ development? We may want to see if we can find a link as a next step.”

This work was supported by funding from the Max Planck Society and the Brain Behavior and Research Foundation.

Possible New Treatment For COVID-19 Found

Newswise — Investigators at Cedars-Sinai have identified a potential new therapy for COVID-19: a biologic substance created by reengineered human skin cells.   Scientists found the substance stopped SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from reproducing itself and also protected infected cells when tested in human lung cells. Although still in the early stages, the findings open the possibility of having a new therapy for COVID-19 patients. The details of the potential therapy are published in the journal Biomaterials and Biosystems.

“We were surprised to find this potential therapy shuts down a novel pathway for viral replication and also protects infected cells,” said Ahmed G. Ibrahim, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai and first author of the study.

Few treatments currently exist for COVID-19 and the ones that do primarily focus solely on preventing the virus from replicating. This new potential treatment inhibits replication but also protects or repairs tissue, which is important because COVID-19 can cause symptoms that affect patients long after the viral infection has been cleared.

The potential therapy investigated in this study was created by scientists using skin cells called dermal fibroblasts. The investigators engineered the cells to produce therapeutic extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are nanoparticles that serve as a communication system between cells and tissue. Engineering these fibroblasts allowed them to secrete EVs—which the investigators dubbed “ASTEX”—with the ability to repair tissue.

In previous experiments, the investigators demonstrated that ASTEX can repair heart tissue, lung tissue and muscle damage in laboratory mice. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the investigators turned to studying whether ASTEX could be used as treatment against SARS-CoV-2.

The study was done through a collaboration with investigators at UCLA who tested ASTEX by applying it to human lung epithelial cells, cells that line the pulmonary tract and are the targets of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

They discovered that ASTEX prevented cells from launching an inflammatory process that could lead to cell death. Cells treated with ASTEX also made fewer of a type of protein called ACE that SARS-CoV-2 may use to infect cells.

The team then compared the potential treatment with remdesivir, a drug currently used to treat COVID-19, and found that remdesivir did not inhibit production of ACE. Instead, remdesivir stops the virus from latching on to a protein called ACE2. ASTEX, therefore, may present another way to prevent the virus from entering cells.

“Viruses don’t have their own machinery to get into cells, so they use proteins,” Ibrahim said. “We believe targeting ACE proteins is just one way SARS-CoV-2 infiltrates cells, hijacks their genetic information and replicates itself in the body.”

ASTEX appears to have stopped this hijacking process.

“This potential anti-COVID-19 biological therapy is novel in that it has two facets: It protects infected cells, which remdesivir does not do, and also inhibits viral replication,” said senior author Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, executive director of the Smidt Heart Institute and the Mark S. Siegel Family Foundation Distinguished Professor at Cedars-Sinai.

Investigators are planning future studies.

Rural Hospitals In U.S. Face Wipeout With 800 At Risk Of Shutdown

Pummeled by the pandemic, at least 40% of rural U.S. hospitals are in danger of shutting down and leaving millions of people in smaller and less affluent communities without a nearby emergency and critical care facility.

That’s the conclusion of the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform, whose recent study sees 500 hospitals at immediate risk for closing within two years and more than 300 others at high risk within five years. The grim assessment by the policy center found the problems spread across the country, and that the threats will persist even if the pandemic ends because rising costs are outrunning revenue.

All told, there are about 38 million Americans in the at-risk areas; they’d have to drive at least 20 minutes farther if their local hospitals close, with half adding at least 30 minutes, said Harold Miller, the center’s chief executive and author of the report. Many of the facilities are in sparsely populated but important farming, mining or ranching communities.

Hospital Emergency

Negative margins are putting smaller hospitals at high risk of failure

“The myth is that these are hospitals that should no longer exist in communities that should no longer exist,” Miller said in an interview. Keeping those facilities open would cost $3.4 billion, or less than 1% of total annual spending on hospitals, said Miller, an adjunct public policy and management professor and former associate dean at Carnegie Mellon University.

Fifteen states have more than half of their rural hospitals at risk of closing because of persistent losses, including Texas and a large swath of the South and Midwest such as Kansas and Mississippi, the study shows. But rural hospitals in New York, Connecticut and Washington State are also in trouble.

More than 130 rural hospitals have closed in the last decade, according to the University of North Carolina’s Sheps Center, and they’re often the only option for health care in their communities.

Higher costs for labor and supplies and lower revenue have trounced hospitals as they shut down elective procedures to care for critically ill Covid-19 patients. Even with billions in federal money, operating margins at U.S. hospitals were negative 3.3% in January, health-care consultancy Kaufman Hall said, and that’s including the strongest operators. Meanwhile, they’re facing pending cuts in Medicare payments along with repayments of funds advanced earlier in the pandemic.

Sick and Struggling: States with highest percentage of hospitals at high risk of closing

What’s really hurting the smaller providers, Miller said, is a longstanding inability to negotiate the same rates as their larger counterparts for the roughly half of their patients who have private insurance. Bigger facilities rely on higher payments from private insurers to offset lower reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. On top of that, the sparser populations mean costs per patient are higher so the hospitals can’t always count on a flow of patients to finance essential services like emergency care.

“The problem is, they don’t get paid if you don’t go,” Miller said. This means that state and local governments — and their taxpayers — pick up more of the tab, he said. His research shows margins declining with hospital size.

A representative for health-insurance trade group AHIP didn’t provide an immediate comment.

Emergency Rooms

Some rural hospitals do get federal reimbursements that cover their costs, and a new program that takes effect next year will increase payments to qualifying facilities that eliminate in-patient beds, which often sit empty. But Miller said most of the hospitals aren’t losing money on in-patient services, but rather on their emergency rooms and clinics.

Increasing payments can help, but the system also needs more coordinated planning to ensure all communities have care, said Kenneth Kaufman, Kaufman Hall’s chair. “We have a reimbursement problem of course, but we also have a structural problem,” he said in an interview. “There’s just not enough patients to sustain a lot of these hospitals.”

A handful of states like California are experimenting with different methods of financing struggling hospitals, Kaufman said. “There’s nothing likely to get done at the federal level.”

The hospital study examined finances over a three-year period using publicly available data and didn’t rely on commercial funding, according to Miller.  Miller suggests that insurers fund rural hospitals through monthly payments in addition to reimbursement for services in a manner similar to other public services. “We don’t pay the fire department based on the fire,” he said.

AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel Condemns Russia’s Premeditated, Unprovoked, and Unjustified Invasion of Ukraine

Two weeks ago, Russian military forces under the guidance of President Putin began an unprovoked and unjustified attack on the Ukrainian people. Today, more than two million people have fled Ukraine, with as many as five million expected to be displaced as Russian troops continue to advance toward major cities.

The thoughts and prayers of AAHOA Members, Americans, and the entire world are with the Ukrainian people as they suffer through this tragic humanitarian crisis. “Seeing the news – images and videos of Ukrainian people in bomb shelters, fleeing their homes, and crowding train stations to get to safety – is incredibly upsetting,” AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel said. “And I know AAHOA Members also are in shock and disbelief about this premeditated war, which is undoubtedly bringing incredible human suffering to the innocent people of Ukraine.”

It’s in times of need and suffering that our industry can really make an impact. A new initiative, #HospitalityHelps, has the single goal of providing temporary hotel accommodation to Ukrainian residents who are forced to leave their homes as a result of the war.

“The hospitality industry has always been one to step up in times of need,” Patel said. “The HospitalityHelps initiative is a true testament to what can be accomplished when we work together to help those who are suffering.” HospitalityHelps is currently connecting families on the run from the war in Ukraine with hotel owners across the world providing free hotel stays. “At the end of the day, people just need to feel safe. They need a roof over their heads and a place to call home while their country is experiencing extreme unrest,” Patel said. “This is the very foundation of the hotel industry and what hotel owners strive to do each and every day: provide solace and peace for those who need rest and a safe place to stay.”

AAHOA Members and our community of hoteliers are stepping up to help the refugees affected by this senseless act of aggression. We encourage anyone who can make donations or contributions to help the refugees affected by the war at hospitality-helps.org. Alternatively, here’s a list of the top-rated charities to help the Ukraine relief effort. AAHOA Members continue to pray for the strong, brave people of Ukraine and will continue providing any help possible as the situation progresses.

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.

Women’s Voices Raised Against Hate In India

More and more women from different walks of life and corners of the world are raising their voices against the treatment of minorities in India today.

“Unity and the safety of citizens is the first and foremost condition of a country’s security,” Roop Rekha Varma, former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University (LU), told IPS.

With Ramesh Dixit, a former professor LU, Varma walked into a local police station to file a police report against hate speech against those who have threatened to kill Muslims in India.

In a recent case, provocative speeches allegedly calling for a genocide of Muslims were made at a December 2021 conclave held in the Himalayan town of Haridwar.

“If 100 of us become soldiers and are prepared to kill two million (Muslims), then we will win … protect India, and make it a Hindu nation,” said Pooja Shakun Pandey, a senior member of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha political party in a video recording of the event.

Pandey, Wasim Rizvi alias Jitendra Narayan Tyagi, Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, and Sagar Sindhu Maharaj are facing hate speech charges for their utterances.

Varma is shocked at rising incidents of unprovoked targeting of Muslims, including Muslim women, in recent times.

Sunita Viswanath, founder and executive director of Hindus for Human Rights, a US-based civil society organization, is equally anxious.

“Muslim women in India are being barred from entering college for wearing the hijab. This is a country where the Prime Minister rode to power promising equal rights for women. Clearly, not everyone is equal. If this is not apartheid, please tell what is,” Viswanath says. She referred to the controversy that erupted in January when a government-run college in the Udupi district of Karnataka state barred girls from attending lectures for wearing headscarves. The matter is now under judicial review.

Along with 16 other civil society organizations in the US, Viswanath organized two Congressional briefings on India’s treatment of Muslims.

“We are US citizens of Indian origin, and we have the power to influence and to move US lawmakers and the Biden Administrations to speak out,” says Viswanath on social media. She feels that the world needs to understand that something is wrong in India, that India is on a perilous path.

“India’s tryst with hate is on overdrive. The only way we can fight systematic hate is to stand by India’s tried and tested secular fabric,” Saumya Bajaj told IPS on the phone. Bajaj is associated with Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch (GNEM), a Delhi-based group for unity among citizens.

“Terrorizing Muslims and Christians on a daily basis seems to be the new norm. We, as citizens, can no longer afford to remain silent spectators to this macabre celebration of hate engulfing us?” reads a circular, inviting citizens to say no to hate mongers.

GNEM demands that the police investigate all violence cases against fellow citizens, including online abuse. Nayantara Sahgal, 94, an award-winning Indian, says she does not recognize the new India.

“Today, that India is disappearing. My country is unrecognizable. It seems like a foreign country full of hatred and exclusion. There is a deep slide in democracy. It is utterly despairing. Yet we cannot be silent. A writer has to speak loud and clear,” the former vice president of PEN International said in a recent interview.

Booker Prize-winning author and essayist Arundhati Roy fears that Hindu nationalism could break India into little pieces like Yugoslavia and Russia. The hope is that ultimately the Indian people will resist what she calls the fascism of the ruling party.

Sahgal is pinning her hopes on the elections in five Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh (UP), until March 7.

In UP, interfaith marriages have been restricted in recent times. Muslim men married to Hindu women have been harassed by vigilante mobs and often arrested by the police. Many online attempts to humiliate and terrorize Muslim women continue.

Sahgal is the daughter of Vijay Laxmi Pandit, sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, first prime minister of independent India. She is also the widow of the late bureaucrat Edward Nirmal Mangat Rai, an Indian Christian. Today she is concerned about the safety of her Christian relatives and Muslim friends as incidents of majoritarian hate against minorities peak.

Sabika Naqvi, community and advocacy head at The Fearless Collective, says that vocal and assertive Muslim women have woken up in India to find their names on Auctioning apps – from Sulli Deals over the last two years to Bulli Bai. The call to rape and kill Muslim women is routine, and efforts to dehumanize Muslim women is on the rise, she says.

“They fear our ability to write, to speak, to journal, to dream, articulate, assert, organize, and fiercely fight the oppressors. They either sexualize us, try to act as our messiahs or plot to kill. But we are here to conquer the world. We are lawyers, poets, journalists, actors, activists, entrepreneurs, scholars and much more,” says Naqvi, adding that this is not just a ‘prank’ or mere ‘bullying’ but harassment that Muslim women face every day.

The Fearless Collective is a movement that helps citizens move from fear to love through the creation of participatory art in public space.

Naqvi feels that the time has come to speak up and ensure that solidarity voices are louder than those who support hatred.

‘Repressed’ India Added To Human Rights Watch List

India has been added to a watchlist of countries that have seen a rapid decline in civic freedoms.Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to resort to drastic measures to silence critics of his nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to the CIVICUS Monitor.

In January, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation conducted raids on a prominent human rights watchdog, People’s Watch, in Madurai.

“Authorities used politically motivated allegations of fraud and financial irregularities to target the civil society organization, which has been an outspoken critic of the government,” said Josef Benedict, civic space researcher for the CIVICUS Monitor.

The raid came on the heels of over 6,000 other civil society organizations including Oxfam losing their licenses under the controversial Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. The government has used the law to ban organizations from receiving foreign funds.

Since coming to power in 2014, Modi has sought to squeeze charities and non-profit groups that receive foreign funds. Greenpeace and Amnesty International are among the civil society groups that have had to close their offices in India.

“The use of broadly worded anti-terrorism laws against activists, journalists, academics and students reflects a multi-year decline in the state of civic and democratic freedoms in the country”

Scores of human rights defenders and activists remain in detention under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and other laws. They include the 15 human rights defenders linked to the 2018 Bhima Koregaon incident who have been accused of having links with Maoist organizations, based on evidence believed to be fabricated.

At least 13 activists arrested under the UAPA for their advocacy work against the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 remain in detention. The slow investigative processes and extremely stringent bail provisions ensure that those detained under the law are held in pre-trial detention for long periods.

“The office raids and foreign funding bans are part of the government’s strategy to harass and silence their critics,” said Benedict.

“The use of broadly worded anti-terrorism laws against activists, journalists, academics and students reflects a multi-year decline in the state of civic and democratic freedoms in the country.”

Journalists have continued to be targeted in India for their work and there have been concerns about the widespread surveillance of activists, journalists and others critical of the Modi government following the Pegasus spyware expose.

“The government must release all human rights defenders detained and come clean about its surveillance of activists and journalists as well as establish an independent and effective oversight mechanism to monitor all stages of interceptions of communications,” said Henri Tiphagne, national working secretary of Human Rights Defenders’ Alert (HRDA) India.

In recent months, the government has arrested human rights defender Khurram Parvez as well as journalists and taken control of the Kashmir Press Club, the largest independent media body in Kashmir

CIVICUS also cites persecution and harassment in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. Since August 2019, when the government revoked the constitutional autonomy of the country’s only Muslim-majority state and split Jammu and Kashmir into two federally governed territories, hundreds have been detained and restrictions placed on internet access.

In recent months, the government has arrested human rights defender Khurram Parvez as well as journalists and taken control of the Kashmir Press Club, the largest independent media body in Kashmir.

India is currently rated “repressed” by the CIVICUS Monitor along with 48 other countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Other countries added to the watchlist with India are El Salvador, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

CIVICUS is a global alliance of over 10,000 civil society organizations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world.

The CIVICUS Monitor is an online platform that tracks the latest developments to civic freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, across 197 countries and territories.

India To Get WHO Global Center For Traditional Medicine

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved the establishment of the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (WHO GCTM) in Jamnagar, Gujarat. This would be the first and only global outposted Centre (office) for traditional medicine across the globe.

The cabinet signed the Host Country agreement between the Central government and the World Health Organization (WHO) to approve the establishment of GCTM.

The WHO GCTM will be established in Jamnagar under the Ministry of AYUSH. A Joint Task Force (JTF) is constituted for coordination, execution and monitoring of activities for the establishment of this Centre.

JTF comprises representatives from the government of India, Permanent Mission of India, Geneva and the World Health Organization.

Under the ambit of this, an interim office is being established in Jamnagar to execute the identified technical activities and planning of fully functional WHO GCTM.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghbereyesus, WHO Director General, had announced the establishment of WHO GCTM in India on the occasion of 5th Ayurveda Day on November 13, 2020.

“WHO GCTM would emerge as a centre of global wellness, bolster evidence-based research, training and awareness for Traditional Medicine,” said Modi.

The WHO GCTM would provide leadership on all global health matters related to traditional medicine as well as extend support to member countries in shaping various policies related to traditional medicine research, practices and public health.

The Ministry of AYUSH has collaborated with WHO on many fronts including developing benchmarks documents on training and practice of Ayurveda and Unani System, introducing a second module in the Traditional Medicine Chapter of the International classification of Diseases-11, developing apps like M-yoga, supporting the work of International Pharmacopeia of Herbal Medicine (IPHM) and other research studies etc. (IANS)

Huma Abedin Steps Out, Brings Her Memoir To Abu Dhabi

There’s no easy way to tell Huma Abedin’s story. So, she’s telling it herself, bringing her voice to an international stage in the United Arab Emirates and speaking about her recently published memoir.

For more than two decades, Abedin has been the ever-loyal aide to Hillary Clinton, starting as a young intern to the First Lady in 1996 and rising to become her advisor and trusted confidante as Clinton became senator, secretary of state and, ultimately, the Democratic presidential nominee.

“I was kind of the invisible staff person behind the primary person. And I liked it,” Abedin told The Associated Press during a visit to Abu Dhabi on Monday. “I loved the work and decided after a while that a lot of other people were telling my story and I would choose to reclaim that history myself. And if I didn’t write it, somebody else would.”

For someone content to play the supporting act, she appears comfortable now stepping out into the spotlight with her memoir titled: “Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds”, even if it means confronting the judgement and shame she’s faced over her marriage to former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, whose confiscated laptop roiled Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Abedin’s professional and personal life collided in 2016 when Weiner’s contact with a 15-year-old girl prompted the FBI to open an investigation because emails Clinton had sent to Abedin were found on a laptop federal agents had seized from him. He was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison over his messages to the young girl. Following his release, he is now planning to host a weekly radio show.

To tell her own story, Abedin, 46, penned a memoir just under 500 pages long. Or, as she puts it: “I vomited on paper. All of my feelings, all of my emotions, all of the ‘Why did she stay? Why did she go? Did she change the outcome of the 2016 election?’”

One review of her book in the Guardian describes reading about her courtship to Weiner, who was her first love, as “watching a horror film and screaming at the heroine not to go into the haunted house, while knowing that, of course, she will.”

Abedin, though, is quick to point out that her life has also been filled with extraordinary moments and privilege.

“I was never the smartest, prettiest, best in anything. I knew one thing, though. When I walked into the White House in 1996, I was prepared to outwork anybody and hard work got me to where I am,” she said.

Born in the United States, Abedin moved to Saudi Arabia with her Indian father and Pakistani mother as a toddler and lived there until college, visiting the U.S. during summer breaks. That experience and background made her a “novelty” in Washington’s political circles, she said.

Her Muslim faith and family were what she leaned on the most during her darkest days.  “My parents very much, you know, taught us what our identity was and that was number one, you’re an American, number two, you’re a Muslim — and everything else is background music,” she said. “As long as you had that grounding, as long as you had that place where you knew you could draw strength, where you knew you had a strong family to support you, everything was going to be OK.”

Abedin’s interview with the AP came after she took the stage for the the inaugural Forbes 30/50 Summit. Donning an emerald-colored dress, her raven hair flowing in soft curls, her presence drew young female admirers and requests for selfies and photos.

All the while, she kept a watchful eye over her 10-year-old son with her on the trip, letting him know she would be nearby for another interview.

“When Anthony was in prison for almost two years, and I really was a single parent and did not have (my son’s) father around, I have to tell you, it was really, really hard,” she said. “I mean, there were days where I wasn’t even sure I’d get through the day.”

Abedin lost her father at a young age to illness and wants her son to grow up knowing his. She said it took hard work to get to a place where both she and Weiner are present in their son’s life, despite their separation since 2016.

“Even though his father and I are not together and will not be together, we will be in each other’s lives forever and we had to figure out how to work together,” she said.

Abedin remains Clinton’s chief of staff, a role that keeps her busy.  “We are partners in crime — in adventures that is,” Abedin says oft her relationship with Clinton. Abedin is currently working on a show for Apple TV+ based on Clinton’s book with daughter, Chelsea, called “The Book of Gutsy Women”.

Abedin and Clinton shared a stage last year for the first time at a 92nd Street Y event, with Clinton supporting Abedin as she talked about her book, which is full of praise and admiration for her boss. Clinton said the FBI investigation during the final weeks of her campaign impacted the outcome of the election, which Donald Trump won. She said she felt angry and bewildered by the FBI probe, but never considered firing Abedin, despite people urging her to.

“Everybody supporting me knew this was a particularly damaging event, but why would I fire Huma? So, of course I didn’t. And wouldn’t, at all,” Clinton said.

Abedin, too, told the AP she remains unflinchingly loyal to Clinton.

“I’m lucky, you know, she’s a friend and mentor, a boss, and she’s always been there for me, and I’m always going to be there for her,” Abedin said.

India To Resume Scheduled International Flights From March 27

India will allow resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services from March 27. “After having recognized the increased vaccination coverage across the globe and in consultation with the stakeholders, the Government of India has decided to resume scheduled commercial international passenger services to or from India from March 27, 2022,” an official communique said on Tuesday.

“The suspension of scheduled commercial international passenger services to or from India, thus, stands extended only upto 2359 hrs IST on March 26, 2022 and air bubble arrangements shall accordingly be extended to this extent only.”

Last year, the Centre had decided to allow resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services from December 15. However, the decision was suspended after the spread of Omicron variant of Covid-19. (IANS)

Operation Ganga: 75 Special Flights Bring Back 15,521 Indians From Ukraine

India has announced that 75 special civilian charter flights under ‘Operation Ganga’ have brought back 15,521 Indian citizens from Ukraine’s neighboring countries. The Indian government had initiated an airlift operation to evacuate Indians, who have found their way to neighboring countries of war-torn Ukraine.

It had deployed a number of special charter as well as Indian Air Force flights to ferry back the citizens. On Tuesday, 410 Indians were airlifted by two special civilian flights from Suceava, Romania.

“With this, about 18,000 Indians have been brought back through the special flights which began on February 22, 2022. The number of Indians airlifted by 75 special civilian flights goes up to 15,521,” the Ministry of Civil Aviation said.

“IAF had flown 12 missions to bring back 2,467 passengers, as part of ‘Operation Ganga’, and carried over 32 tonnes of relief material.”

According to the statement, among the civilian flights, 4,575 passengers have been brought from Bucharest by 21 flights, 1,820 from Suceava by 9 flights, 5,571 from Budapest by 28 flights, 909 passengers by 5 flights from Kosice, 2,404 Indians from Rzeszow by 11 flights, and 242 persons by a flight from Kiev.

Microsoft To Invest Rs 15,000 Crore In Hyderabad Data Center

Software giant Microsoft will set up its largest data centre in India at Hyderabad with an investment of Rs 15,000 crore. The Telangana government and Microsoft on Monday jointly announced the data centre investment which will be Microsoft’s largest data centre region in India.

Microsoft will make the investment over a period of 15 years into the new data centre region spread across three sites – Chandanvelly, Ellikatta, and Kottur. The software giant already has its India development centre in Hyderabad, which is its largest in the world outside its headquarters in the US. The new data center in Hyderabad will deliver advanced data security and cloud solutions that will help enterprises, start-ups, developers, education, and government institutions.

The announcement was made in the presence of Union Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar, and Telangana’s Information Technology Minister K.T. Rama Rao and Principal Secretary, ITE&C, Jayesh Ranjan. The event was also attended by Microsoft’s Executive Vice President, Jean-Philippe Courtois and Microsoft India President, Anant Maheshwari.

The Hyderabad data centre region is another addition to the existing network of 3 regions in India across Pune, Mumbai, and Chennai, which have been operational for more than five years.

K.T. Rama Rao called it an iconic moment in the development story of Telangana. “This will be one of the largest FDIs that Telangana has attracted; Will indirectly support local business growth and facilitate job creation across IT operations, facilities management, data and network security, network engineering and much more,” he tweeted.

Through the data center region, Microsoft will enable opportunities for local businesses to innovate with Microsoft Cloud services in Hyderabad and across Telangana.

Telangana and Microsoft have earlier entered an MoU that will positively reinforce the state government’s capabilities to enhance its citizen service capabilities. Given the state’s technology driven growth agenda around key sectors like agriculture, healthcare, education, law enforcement and mobility, the Microsoft data centre in the region will push up the local growth.

“Today’s commitment to the people and businesses of India will position the country among the world’s digital leaders. A Microsoft data centre region provides a competitive advantage to our digital economy and is a long-term investment in our country’s potential. The cloud is transforming every industry and sector. The investment in skilling will empower India’s workforce today and into the future,” said Chandrasekhar.

“Microsoft and Telangana go a long way back with Hyderabad hosting one of the largest Microsoft offices in the world and I am happy to see the relationship grow,” said Rama Rao.

Maheshwari noted that cloud services are poised to play a critical role in reimagining the future of business and governance and enabling overall inclusion in the country. “The new data center will augment Microsoft’s cloud capabilities and capacity to support those working across the country. It will also support new entrepreneurial opportunities while meeting critical security and compliance needs. The new data centre region is a testament to our mission to empower the people and organisations of India to achieve more,” he said. (IANS)

Engineers’ Organization And Northwestern University Host Event For Students

Northwestern University’s Master of Engineering Management Student Advisory Board (SAB) and the American Association of Engineers of India Origin (AAEIO) hosted an event on “How to Navigate your career in the post digital world.”

Prof. Mark Werwath, Northwestern University, along with  Azgar Ali, president of MEM Student Advisory Board (SAB) welcomed all guests, AAEIO board members and the distinguished panel. They talked about the need for increased collaboration between students, engineering communities and employers, according to a press release from Asian Media USA.

Gladson Varghese, founder and president of AAEIO detailed how important it was for young engineers to work together and collaborate with other universities, startups and corporate and get experiential learning. He also asked students to join the mission of bringing all engineers under one umbrella and asked them to join the Engineering Student Chapter. This event was the first of its kind for AAEIO collaborating with a university.

Consul General of India, Chicago, Amit Kumar was the chief guest for the event. He spoke of the need for increased global collaboration and some of the recent innovations that are transforming the world. For example, in India, Aristech is leading a revolution on how food storage can be improved, he noted.

Mohanbir Singh Sawhney, PhD, Associate Dean of Digital innovation, Kellogg School of Management was the keynote speaker for the event. He is also an Advisory Board member of the AAEIO. His talk was on “Product Strategy” where he informed the students about the need for product management and its interaction with engineers and how one should think about Product Management, its different career prospects, and how a student can be successful in this field.

Prof. Vinayak P. Dravid, Material Science and Engineering, talked about how research collaboration has made a difference. He also emphasized the need for more AAEIO kind of partnership.

Nitin Maheshwari, vice president, AAEIO, also a Northwestern graduate from Kellogg School of Management and an entrepreneur of Artificial Engineering (AI) based consulting, moderated a highly coveted and diverse panel of distinguished guests on the topic of “How to Navigate your career in post digital world.”

Other discussants included Nag Jaiswal, AAEIO Chair of Membership, Principal Architect, Salesforce and Rajinder Mago, ex-Navistar.

The AAEIO announced a Leadership Excellence Webinar to be held March 19. There was also a ribbon-cutting ceremony to symbolize increased partnership between AAEIO and Northwestern.

Celebration of International Mother Language Day

As part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Indian Punjabi organizations across the US Midwest in association with the Consulate General of India organized a vibrant cultural event to commemorate the International Mother Language Day on 27 February 2022 in Chicago.

Consul General Amit Kumar delivered the inaugural remarks at the event. Mayor William McLeod and Mayor Rodney Craig from Hoffman Estates and Hanover Park towns respectively also joined the event.

Consul General, in his remarks, commended the organizers for the wonderful program and appreciated in particular the initiative taken by them to engage the younger generation in this effort, and connecting them to their cultural roots. He mentioned that the National Education Policy issued in August 2020 provides emphasis on learning in the mother tongue along with other languages. The Department of Science & Technology is working to leverage technology using natural language processing algorithms to translate high quality education content in different official languages. He also drew attention to the Bhasha Sangam App, brought out by the Ministry of Education to enable people of India to learn basic sentences of daily conversation in 22 official languages.

The programme started with rendition of Gurbani Kirtan with classical Indian string instruments – Taus and Dilruba by youth from Chicago suburbs. Several noted Punjabi academicians, authors, and representatives of Punjabi linguistic/cultural organizations gave presentations on their initiatives to preserve linguistic and cultural heritage of Punjabi immigrants in the US. These included Mr. Ashok Bhaura, Punjabi writer and journalist in California, Dr. Pinderjeet Kaur Gill, Lecturer, Hindi and Punjabi Languages at University of Michigan, Dr. Gurbakhsh Singh Bhandal, a Physicist at Cleveland State University, Ohio, and Mr. Manmohan Grewal, TV Anchor from Utah.

An exhibition of Punjabi folk musical instruments and artifacts on rural life in Punjab was also mounted. As part of this event, an innovative initiative Pindan vichon Pind Suneeda (the best-known village amongst villages is mine) in which children made video clips sharing experiences about their journeys to villages in India was also undertaken. A vibrant cultural program comprising poetry recitation and singing of Punjabi folk songs was also held.

The Consulate was in regular contact with the organisers and rendered assistance for organizing competition for children and in reaching out to some of the participants.

Upakar Foundation Inviting Student Scholarship Applications For 2022

Upakar Foundation based in Washington, D.C. has announced applications for its 2022 scholarships for citizens and permanent residents of Indian descent to help them attend higher education institutions.

According to 2015 data collected by the Pew Research Center, approximately 7.5% of Indians in the US live in poverty.  US Census Bureau data for 2018 set the poverty threshold for a family of four at $25,465, the Foundation said in a press release.

To date Upakar has awarded 179 scholarships for more than $700,000 to students who meet the criteria of being born in India or who have at least one Indian-born parent.

Upakar opened its application window this year’s Upakar Scholarships on March 1, 2022.  Applicants wishing to apply for a scholarship must submit their applications no later than April 30, 2022.  Full application criteria can be found on the Upakar website at upakar.org.

Upakar Scholarships are $2,000 per year for Scholars attending a 4-year undergraduate program, and $500 per year for Scholars attending a community college program.

The applicant must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Financial need is determined by the family’s adjusted gross income. Scholars must have attained a raw high school GPA above 3.6.  As long as a scholar’s GPA exceeds 3.3 in college, Upakar will renew the $2,000 annual scholarship for up to four years.  Upakar Community College Scholarships provide $500 per year for up to two years; and if the Scholar transfers to a 4-year program, Upakar will increase its commitment to $2,000 annually until the Scholar has received a total of four years of scholarship support.  Upakar Textbook Scholarships are one-time awards of $250.

Upakar has 24 Scholars attending their respective colleges in the 2021-2022 academic year, at various stages in their undergraduate degree programs.

Founded in 1997, the Foundation aims to  provide highly qualified college-bound Indian-American students with need-based tuition assistance so that they could graduate without a crushing burden of college debt, the organization said.

Alia Bhatt Makes Global Debut With Gal Gadot: Joins Netflix’s Heart Of Stone

Alia Bhatt is set to join the cast of Netflix’s Heart of Stone as she makes her global debut opposite Gal Gadot. Bhatt is already one of the biggest movie stars in India, having won four Filmfare awards. Her recent Gangubai Kathiawadi directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali secured the third biggest opening in 2022 and the biggest non-holiday opening for a Hindi film since the start of the pandemic.  The film will release globally on Netflix this spring, and has received great reviews singling out her performance in the title-role, besides nearing the 100 crore mark in India—here second film as protagonist (after Raazi in 2018) to do so.

Her 2019 film Gully Boy, directed by Zoya Akhtar, premiered at that year’s Berlin Film Festival (and so did Gangubai Kathiawadi this year) and has become an international hit, grossing over $25M worldwide to date. The film is available to stream now on Amazon Prime and was India’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2020 Oscars.

Recognizing her international appeal (including over 60M followers on Instagram), the Academy inducted her into its 2020 class.

Alia will be joining Gal Gadot and Jamie Dornan in the Hollywood movie produced by Skydance’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Don Granger with Mockingbird’s Bonnie Curtis and Julie Lynn. Gadot will also be producing with her husband ,Jaron Varsano through their production company, Pilot.

Alia, who made her debut in Student of the Year (2012), has streaked ahead of her contemporaries Shraddha Kapoor (debut in 2010), Sonakshi Sinha (2010), Parineeti Chopra (2011), Taapsee Pannu (2013) and Kriti Sanon (2014). The younger daughter of Mahesh Bhatt, with actress Soni Razdan as her mother, Alia has also given bravura performances in Highway, Udta Punjab and Dear Zindagi, besides being a part of hits like 2 States, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, Badrinath Ki Dulhania and Raazi, in which her performances too were standout.

In Hindi films, she will be soon seen in RRR, Brahmastra (her first with beau Ranbir Kapoor), Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani, and her own maiden production, Darlings. She is said to be making a new film with Sanjay Leela Bhansali as well.

She now joins the ranks of Priyanka Chopra Jonas (Quantico on TV and Baywatch—The Movie +) and Deepika Padukone (xXx: The Return of Xander Cage) in making the cut in Hollywood. The sign ‘+’ indicates more than one film abroad.

Other Indian actresses who made the international cut:

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (The Last Legion +)

Aparna Sen (Bombay Talkie)

Deepti Naval (Lion)

Dimple Kapadia (Tenet)

Disha Patani (Kung-Fu Yoga)

Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire +, no film in India despite being Mumbai-born)

Huma Qureshi (Army of the Dead)

Leela Naidu (Man of the World in 1962 on TV +, followed by The Householder +)

Mallika Sherawat (Hisss +)

Mrunal Thakur (Love Sonia)

Nitu Chandra (Never Back Down: Revolt)

Persis Khambata (Kama Sutra in 1969 +)

Richa Chadha (Word with Gods +)

Shabana Azmi (Madame Sousatzka +)

Tabu (The Namesake +)

USCIS To Protect Immigrant Children, Abused, Neglected, Abandoned

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new policies that will provide better protection to immigrant children who are victims of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar parental maltreatment.

“Today, we are taking action to help immigrant children in the U.S. who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned and offer them protection to help rebuild their lives,” said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou. “These policies will provide humanitarian protection to vulnerable young people for whom a juvenile court has determined that it is in their best interest to remain in the United States.”

The new policies include updating regulations to clarify Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) eligibility criteria such as updating an age-out provision to protect petitioners who turn 21 while their petition is pending. Additionally, USCIS is updating regulations for evidentiary requirements to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the program and ensure that eligible victims of parental abuse, neglect, or abandonment receive SIJ classification and a pathway to apply for lawful permanent residence (LPR) status.

USCIS may consent to a grant of SIJ classification when the petitioner has provided evidence of court-ordered relief from parental abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis under state law, as well as evidence of the factual basis for a juvenile court’s determinations. The regulations also make clear that petitioners cannot be required to contact their alleged abuser while USCIS makes a decision in their SIJ case. An SIJ petitioner may have an attorney, accredited representative, and/or trusted adult present, if an interview is scheduled, but only attorneys and accredited representatives are entitled to make a statement during such interviews.

In addition to issuing the updated regulations, USCIS is updating the USCIS Policy Manual to consider deferred action and related employment authorization for noncitizens classified as SIJs who are ineligible to apply for adjustment of status to LPR status solely because a visa is not immediately available. Deferred action and employment authorization will provide invaluable assistance to these vulnerable noncitizens who have limited financial and other support systems in the United States while they await an available visa number.

This Policy Manual update is effective May 6, 2022, and applies to eligible noncitizens classified as SIJs before, on, or after that date, based on an approved Form I-360, Petition for Ameriasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.

Mississippi Chapter of AAPI Organizes Spring Blood Drive

“The Mississippi Chapter of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI,) held its Spring Blood Donation Drive at Renaissance Colony Park in Ridgeland, MS on March 5th.  “The event was quite a success and donors included AAPI members and their supporters as well as medical students and members of the local community,” said Dr. Udaya Shivangi, President of AAPI Missisippi. “ AAPI Mississippi’s partnership with Mississippi Blood Services is one of the many ways we serve our local community and help,” she added.

Dr. Shivangi thanked her leadership , including Vice President, Dr. Indira Veerisetty; Secretary, Dr. Vani Vijayakumar; Treasurer, Dr. Leena Gupta and dozens of other volunteers who made the event very successful.

While expressing appreciation and gratitude to dozens of AAPI Chapters, including the Mississippi Chapter for regularly holding blood F donation drives across the nation, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI said, “As we celebrate the 75thIndependence Day of India, the nation  has made us to be what we are today,  AAPI, the largest ethnic organization in the United States, representing nearly 100,000 physicians and Fellows of Indian origin in the United States, is proud to lead this unique and noble initiative ‘AAPI Blood Donation in 75 cities.”

A major initiative of Dr. Gotimukula-led Executive Team, the Blood Donation campaign  is in response to the national crisis for blood products  especially as the Covid Pandemic ravages the world.

“I want to thank the dozens of AAPI Chapters and in cities and towns across the United States, who have confirmed and have started planning to organize the event in several states,” said Meher Medavram, Chair of AAPI’s Blood Donation Initiative said. The launch event will be held in Chicago on August 7th, Dr. Medavaram announced.

Dr. Kusum Punjabi, the Chair of Board of Trustees of AAPI, serving patients in the Emergency Department, said “As the pandemic has exhausted all the resources, especially the lifesaving and much needed Blood across the nation and the world, AAPI is in the forefront, once again, spreading the message for the need to donate blood and save lives.”

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI, a Board Certified Psychiatrist with additional qualifications in Addiction, Geriatric and Forensic Psychiatry, and serving as the Psychiatric Medical Director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services, urged “potential blood donors to donate blood to help ensure lifesaving blood products are available for patients. Your donation is needed now to prevent delays in patient care. Help overcome the severe blood shortage!”

Dr. Anjana  Samadder, Vice President of AAPI, said, who herself has experienced the ordeal with Covid -19, and has come out stronger,  resilient and tenacious, quoting Red Cross said,

“Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. It is essential for surgeries, cancer treatment, chronic illnesses, and traumatic injuries. Whether a patient receives whole blood, red cells, platelets or plasma, this lifesaving care starts with one person making a generous donation.”

“With the ongoing pandemic, the United States and the world need the help of blood and platelet donors and blood drive hosts to meet the needs of patient care,” said Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI, a board certified hematologist and oncologist from Dayton, Ohio, practicing Medicine for nearly two decades. Dr. Kathula also said, “It is very difficult to find a matched stem cell donor for Southeast Asians should they need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant and this drive will help increase the number of potential donors.”

Dr. Krishan Kumar, a pediatric emergency medicine physician in East Meadow, New York and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, quoting studies done on the need and usefulness of Blood said, “Blood donation helps save lives. In fact, every two seconds of every day, someone needs blood. Since blood cannot be manufactured outside the body and has a limited shelf life, the supply must constantly be replenished by generous blood donors.”

The growing influence of physicians of Indian heritage is evident, as increasingly physicians of Indian origin hold critical positions in the healthcare, academic, research and administrative positions across the nation. We the physicians of Indian origin are proud of our great achievements and contributions to our motherland, India, our adopted land, the US and in a very significant way to the transformation of the Indo-US relations.

Serving 1 in every 7 patients in the US, AAPI members care for millions of patients every day, while several of them have risen to hold high flying jobs, shaping the policies and programs and inventions that shape the landscape of healthcare in the US and around the  world.

“As we all know our blood banks are deprived of products and another wave of COVID is rapidly increasing,” Pointed out Dr. Gotimukula, who has vowed to make AAPI a premium  healthcare leader, primarily focusing to improve and reform the current healthcare system and help towards making a better healthcare model for the patients.

“It’s a humble and a noble initiative by AAPI to help save lives. Please let us know if you are interested to take the lead in your town and help in AAPI’s blood donation drive. Thank you and truly appreciate your support in helping our blood banks.”  For more details to organize Blood Donation Drive in your city/town/region, please contact: Vijaya Kodali, AAPI Office Manager at: vkodali@aapiusa.org. For more details on AAPI

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, AAPI’s Loyal Foot Soldier Committed To Strengthen AAPI

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, the eminent doctor of over 25 years’ standing in Ohio, admirable community leader and philanthropist with a stellar record of serving in leadership roles in AAPI, is running to be its Vice President in the election this month.

Dr Kathula, hematologist/oncologist, is currently Secretary and past Treasurer of National AAPI. He is well-liked by the rank and file of AAPI as evidenced by the number of endorsements he has received.

He has clearly laid out his vision for AAPI (American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin) on his campaign website:

  • Promote AAPI’s mission of education, excellence in patient care, research, and professionalism.
  • Increase membership of AAPI and enhance membership benefits. Engage the younger generation more.
  • Collaborate with major physician organizations in the US.
  • Fast-tracking  of green cards for Indian doctors on H1 visa.
  • Leverage the strength of 100,000 Indian American doctors at the legislative level.

Dr Kathula calls himself humbly a loyal  foot soldier of AAPI, but the fact is he has been Member of its Governing body for the past 13 years and has intensive experience of working for it at senior levels, including as Co Chair – Global Health Summit 2019 and 2022, AAPI’s Board of Trustees (2014-17) and as Regional Director (2012-14).

As AAPI Treasurer last year, he is proud to report that he played a key role in raising and distributing over $5.5 million for Covid relief in India. He is also Chair of Adopt a Village Committee, for a program launched last year to adopt 75 villages in India for free health screening of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, anemia, hypoxemia and malnutrition.

Since Dr Kathula, a suave, affable personality, announced his candidacy for Vice President of AAPI, endorsements for him have been coming fast and furious. Listing his creditable work for AAPI, his various accomplishments and accolades, Dr Deepak Kumar, Past President Ohio State Medical Association, and Immediate Past chair IMG section of American Medical Association (IMA) writes: “I am voting for him in the upcoming election and urge all of you to join me in voting for him.”

Dr Dattatteyudu Nori, a renowned radiation oncologist and Padma Shri awardee, writes, “I have worked with him on several oncology related projects  including at Global Health Summit in India, community outreach programs in the US, etc. He is very efficient, knowledgeable, and is an excellent leader. He would make a great Vice President of AAPI.”

Past AAPI President Dr Sanku Rao has endorsed him for President. “Please remember, this is not only an election for Vice President but for President of AAPI! Satheesh has an excellent reputation in the organization and all the qualities to become one of the best presidents of AAPI!”

Dr Kathula has excelled in leadership roles in the medical field locally in Ohio as well. He has lived in Dayton for 26 years straight. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (Dayton chapter) and has raised more than $200,000 for it thus far. The society conferred on him the Man of the Year award in 2018. He is also President and Founding Member of the Association of Indian Physicians from Ohio.

Active in the Indian community, he was instrumental in raising funds for the construction of the Om Shanti Hindu Cultural Center in Dayton. He has served on several non-profit boards, dedicating half of his career. He is a regular contributor to Veterans Obesity Awareness walks and Ekal Vidyalaya, which is dedicated to children’s education in rural India. The India Club of Dayton presented him the Service Award in 2010.

Dr Kathula’s love for his motherland has manifested in him setting up humanitarian and medical projects in India. The most important of them is establishing in 2007 a state-of-the-art pharmacy college in Warangal in Telangana, where he grew up. Named Pathfinder Institute of Pharmacy and Educational Research (PIPER), the non-profit with Dr Kathula as Chairman provides quality education and has already graduated about 750 students who are now working in different parts of India and the world.

He also collected funds for one lakh masks and distributed them in India during the Covid pandemic and has organized several medical camps there. He personally donated a clean drinking water plant and defibrillator (that restores normal heartbeat through an electric pulse) to his native village in Telangana. He also donated thousands of sanitary napkins to underprivileged young women in India. He usually raises funds for charitable causes through music concerts and golf tournaments, like the one he organized with cricket legend Kapil Dev.

A good doctor has to be also an educator to pass on his knowledge, skills and experience to the next generation of physicians, something Dr Kathula is acutely aware of. He is Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine and Neurology at Wright State University in Dayton. He has been involved in teaching/mentoring medical students, residents and fellows for two decades. He has presented CME (Continuing medical education) lectures at national and international conferences and published articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Dr Kathula came to the US in 1994 after earning his MBBS degree from Siddhartha Medical College in Vijayawada, India. Here he did his residency from Wright State University, Dayton. He is a Partner physician, Dayton Physicians, LLC.

Mirchi Launches Streaming App For North American Audience Features Include Live Feed From 11 Cities And On Demand Audio Storie

Entertainment Network India Limited, the company that operates the Mirchi brand in the United States, today announced the launch of it’s streaming app.

The app is available on Apple and Android smartphones as well as Android Auto & Apple Car play systems. More countries will be added soon, the company stated.

The Mirchi app brings 12 live FM stations from 11 cities in India including Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad (Telugu and English), Kochi, Ahmedabad, Pune, Chandigarh, and Patna. More cities will be available shortly.

The city-wide local streams provide a convenient shortcut for the expat community living in the US as the feeds have been adjusted to mirror local day parts. For example, a listener hailing from Mumbai but living in San Jose, will be able to tune in at his morning time for the Mumbai morning show and so on. Besides providing nostalgic value, US based listeners get a feel of home via real-time to developments taking place in their home city in India in the areas of music, movies, traffic, the stock markets, and much more.

The app also has an on-demand feature that includes hundreds of hours of curated “audio stories” across multiple genres. Mirchi staples like like RJ Naved’s lighthearted Murga prank calls; “The Devdutt Patnaik” mythology show; “The Bhatt Show” hosted by Mahesh and Pooja Bhatt; Kareena Kapoor Khan’s “What Women Want” interview series with top Bollywood celebrities and “Manto” written by the legendary Saadat Hasan Manto and voiced by top personalities like Nandita Das, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and RJ Sayema will be available on the app.

The Mirchi App widens Mirchi’s reach from local terrestrial radio stations in USA to an “on-demand & always on App experience”. Mirchi’s social media presence has been prolific with viral videos and posts, the app now formalizes this listener relationship that allows marketers and advertisers to engage with their audiences through targeted online advertising opportunities.

Commenting on the launch, Mr. Vineet Jain, Chairman of the company said, “The Times of India group has always explored new horizons, pushed boundaries, and innovated to provide the best news and entertainment content to its consumers. We are now bringing the full Mirchi experience to every Indian and South Asian living overseas. With the launch of this app, we further cement our position as a multi-content, multi-format, and multi-lingual music and entertainment brand for desis everywhere.”

Prashant Panday, MD & CEO, ENIL says, “Mirchi, India’s leader in radio and one of its most-loved entertainment brands, is now embarking on a digital journey with the launch of its app. We’ve been leaders in FM radio in India for more than 20 years and now we are making all our radio stations and a lot more audio content available to our listeners outside the country. The app offers brands and marketers across geographies the opportunity to connect with diaspora audiences in the US.” The Mirchi app can be downloaded from MirchiUSA

Social Security: Offices will reopen after 2 years this month

Social Security Administration offices have remained closed since March of 2020, and now, two years later, they will finally be reopening this month.

The agency is currently facing major backlog issues, similar to the IRS, due to the pandemic and staffing issues. Many are hoping that reopening the physical offices will resolve many of these issues. Despite the offices closing, the SSA did not stop functioning.

Is it possible I won’t get Social Security benefits?

In person appointments have been available for people in critical situations in need of assistance. If someone found themselves with no food or shelter, they could make an appointment to get help immediately.

Social Security’s backlogs and reopening of offices

Most of the work done by the Social Security Administration for the last two years has been by phone, email, or mail.

Bump in benefits may get them taxed

This means administrative issues have come about. Only 51% of calls were answered in 2021, according to Forbes and The Sun. After an investigation was completed by the Office of the Inspector General, it was found policies were not in place.

Social Security: Only claim if you know these answers

This was because there were not strong policies surround the tracking and returning original documents, which they themselves require. Documents being mishandled included passports, driver’s licenses, and birth certificates. The hope is that Congress gives funding to not only reopen the offices, but provide better service to the public.

12th Annual Conference of Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin Held

Leading experts and delegates from 53 countries took part in the recent 12th Annual Conference of physicians of Indian origin, GAPIO (Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin).

The GAPIO Conference took place virtually Feb. 26-27, and fielded well-known speakers from United States, Canada, Australia, United Arab Emirates and India who covered different aspects during the sessions on Cardiac Sciences, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, Neurology, Nephrology, Omicron (COVID-19)- Global Perspective, Interventional Radiology, Transplant, Orthopedics & Rheumatology, Integrative Medicine, Oncology, Paediatrics, Leadership Mantras, Capacity Building in Healthcare in India, Patient safety and Quality/Accreditation and Role of Allied Healthcare Professionals in Healthcare.

India’s Minister for Health & Family Welfare and Chemicals and Fertilizers, Mansukh Mandaviya, was the Chief Guest during the awards function which was held on Feb. 26. The awards were presented to young clinicians and presided over by Minister Mandaviya.

Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, founder and president of GAPIO, and chairman of Apollo Hospitals Group was the Guest of Honor. A non-profit organization, GAPIO is a leading association for the Indian medical diaspora and the annual conference has become an important event in the medical calendar for physicians and other medical personnel around the globe.

Dr. Reddy noted how COVID-19 had again shown the potential of Indian-origin physicians during a global health crisis. He also informed the gathering that during the pandemic, GAPIO held 23 sessions dealing with the pandemic during which “valuable lessons” were learned from leaders around the world facing the challenge of the coronavirus.

“The need for innovation and cross-systemic learning is more important than ever before.  Apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, India and the world at large are facing an epidemic of non-communicable diseases – NCDs like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. We seek involvement of everyone to overcome this biggest challenge to mankind posed by COVID-19 and NCDs,” Dr. Reddy said.

“The Indian diaspora has a wealth of talent. Experts based in more than 50 countries can contribute to enhancing the healthcare delivery in India as no matter where they work, they want to give back to their motherland. We hope to evolve a consensus on the contemporary health challenges through this conference,” said Dr. Anupam Sibal, president of GAPIO and Group Medical Director at Apollo Hospitals, Senior Consultant Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist.

Highlighting the Congress’ relevance for Indian healthcare, Dr. Nandakumar Jairam, vice president of GAPIO said, “Research and innovation can improve the delivery of quality healthcare in India to the last mile. As the country braces to overcome its myriad health challenges, this conference will help identify methodologies most suitable to skill and scale the healthcare workforce in the country.”

Dr. Sudhir Parikh, secretary general of GAPIO and Chairman and Publisher of Parikh World Wide Media and ITV Gold 24×7 TV Channel in USA, said “Global health challenges need global solutions, and we believe through GAPIO we will evolve constructive and tangible ways of ensuring that healthcare becomes more accessible to all citizens.”

GAPIO was founded in 2011 by Padma Vibhushan recipient Dr. Prathap C Reddy, along with Dr. Sanku Rao, past-president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, and Ramesh Mehta, president of  the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, BAPIO, UK. The goal of the organization is to bring together 1.4 million physicians of Indian origin in the world on one professional platform.

GAPIO Excellence Awards Presented At 12 Global Conference

During the two-day 12th Global Conference held on a digital platform Feb. 26 and 27, 2022, the Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO) presented the annual GAPIO awards for 2021 to doctors who have made noteworthy contributions to improving healthcare.

The award winners in the Distinguished Category are:

  • GAPIO Lifetime Achievement Award – Jatin P Shah, Former Chairman, Head and Neck Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York
  • Prathap C Reddy Philanthropy Award – Dr. Srinivas Gosla Reddy, Plastic Surgeon, GSR Institute of Craniofacial Plastic Surgery, Hyderabad and Director, Hyderabad Cleft Society.
  • Dr I A Modi Award – Dr. Mahesh Kumar Goenka, Director & Head, Institute of Gastrosciences, Apollo Hospitals, Kolkata, President, Indian Society of Gastroenterology, 2022 -2023
  • GAPIO Surgical Excellence Award – Dr. A A Shetty, Emeritus Professor, Orthopaedics, Trauma and Regenerative Medicine Cell therapy, Christ Church University, UK
  • GAPIO Excellence in Diagnostics – Dr. Arvind Lal, Chairman, Dr Lal PathLabs Ltd, New Delhi, Managing Trustee, ALVL Foundation
  • GAPIO Excellence in Radiology/ Radiation Therapy Awards – Harsh Mahajan,  Founder & Chief Radiologist, Mahajan Imaging, Chairman, Department of Nuclear Medicine & PET-CT, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.

Each winner receives Rs. 100,000, a citation and a trophy.

GAPIO Special Appreciation Award – Dr. J. S. Tuteja, Pediatrician and Adolescent Health specialist, Indore, for his path breaking work in delivering Pediatric and Adolescent care.

The award winners in Young Category are:

  • Dr I A Modi Award – Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Assistant Professor, Nephrology, AIIMS, Patna.
  • GAPIO Surgical Excellence Award – Dr. Vishal Kumar, Associate Professor, Orthopedics, PGI, Chandigarh
  • GAPIO Excellence in Diagnostics – Dr. Swapnil Rane, Associate Professor, Tata Memorial Centre Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer, Mumbai.
  • GAPIO Excellence in Radiology/ Radiation Therapy Awards – Dr. Binit Sureka, Associate Professor, Interventional Radiology, AIIMS, Jodhpur.

Each winner receives Rs. 50,000, a citation and a trophy.

Mansukh Mandaviya, India’s Minister for Health & Family Welfare and Chemical and Fertilizers of India Government of India, was the Chief Guest and Dr. Prathap C Reddy, founder President of GAPIO and Chairman Apollo Hospitals Group was the Guest of Honor.

Dr. Anupam Sibal, President of GAPIO and Group Medical Director, Apollo Hospitals Group and Senior Consultant Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist said, “The awardees through their immense contribution in clinical care, academics, research in different medical and surgical specialities exemplify the highest standards that Indian physicians have become synonyms with.”

Remarking on the young physicians category, Dr. Nandakumar Jairam, Vice President GAPIO said, “The awardees in the Young category represent the aspirations of the Young Indian Physician who is willing to take on challenges to improve delivery of care, while excelling in academics and research.”

 Dr. Sudhir Parikh, Secretary General of GAPIO and Chairman and Publisher of Parikh World Wide Media and ITV Gold 24×7 TV Channel in USA said, “With a presence in 53 countries, GAPIO serves to establish collaborations, bringing 1.4 million physicians of Indian origin on one platform. In the coming year our activities will be enhanced to build a stronger well connected physician community.

Dr. Prathap C Reddy, Founder President of GAPIO and Chairman Apollo Hospitals Group said, “The exemplary work by the awardees is an inspiration for others to emulate. The spirit of  the physicians of Indian origin to excel in India and overseas is what we hope to recognize. There are countless examples of path breaking work across the globe that would make every Indian proud”.

The Beginning of the End for Putin? Dictatorships Look Stable—Until They Aren’t

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine has been a clarifying moment. Since he came to power in 2000, various Western leaders have tried to cooperate, accommodate, or negotiate with him. But by embarking on a war of choice against a country he claims doesn’t have a right to exist, Putin has forced the international community to see him for what he is: a belligerent leader with a remarkable capacity for destruction. The result has been sweeping new measures designed to constrict and constrain him—punishing sanctions against Russia’s financial institutions, bans on Russian planes over EU airspace, and increased weapons shipments to Ukraine. Even Germany, long reluctant to confront Putin, agreed to exclude Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system, reversed its long-standing prohibition on providing arms to conflict zones, and substantially increased its military spending. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked nothing less than a sea change in international perceptions of Putin and what must be done to confront him.

Such a sea change could well be underway inside Russia, too. Throughout his tenure, Putin has maintained relatively high levels of public support thanks in large part to his ability to restore economic growth and stability after the turmoil of the 1990s. While most Russians have few illusions about their leader, recognizing the corruption that benefits him and the elite around him, it remained all but unfathomable to most Russians that Putin would launch a major conventional war against their Ukrainian neighbors. For months, many Russian analysts, commentators, and citizens alike were convinced that Putin would not engage in such an act of aggression. The news of the war and the economic ramifications that followed have led Russians to see both Putin and Russia differently; Russia is not the same today as it was last week.

The prevailing wisdom holds that Putin will be able to survive any domestic backlash. That is most likely true. In personalist authoritarian regimes—where power is concentrated in the hands of an individual rather than shared by a party, military junta, or royal family—the leader is rarely driven from office by wars, even when they experience defeat. That’s both because other elites are not strong enough to hold the dictator to account and because domestic audiences have few opportunities to punish leaders for their actions. But the thing about repressive regimes like Putin’s Russia is that they often look stable right up to the point that they are not. Putin has taken a major risk in attacking Ukraine, and there is a chance—one that seems to be growing—that it could mark the beginning of his end.

There are good reasons to believe that Putin can withstand the backlash from his war. He has gone to great lengths in the last year to crack down on Russian civil society, political opposition, journalists, and the information environment. The regime’s brazen poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and banning of Memorial, the country’s most important post-Soviet human rights civic institution underscore the regime’s commitment to using repression to maintain control. Russians have gotten the message. According to polling by the Levada Center in 2021, 52 percent of Russians fear mass repression, and 58 percent are scared they will be arbitrarily arrested or otherwise harmed by the authorities—the highest these indicators have been since 1994. Such an uptick in repression is common late in the tenures of longtime autocrats. The longer these authoritarians remain in power, the more they lose touch with their societies and the less they have to offer their citizens. As a result, they have few other ways to sustain their rule.

Along with repression, Putin can manipulate Russia’s information environment, shaping the way many Russians understand events in Ukraine. Already, Russia’s security actors are harassing individuals who post antiwar messages on social media and censoring facts and details about the war. The authorities also moved to shut down Echo Moskvy, an independent radio station broadcasting in Russia since 1990. Although younger generations get more information from non-state-controlled outlets, the regime remains dominant in the information space. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, polls show that large majorities of Russians supported recognizing the Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent countries and that they blamed Ukraine and NATO for the conflict.

Together, repression and information control could help prevent Russia’s antiwar protests from catching on. So far, the regime has arrested more than 5,000 people for actively demonstrating against Russia’s invasion, which may deter others from joining. While other Russians may be willing to risk arrest if they think the demonstrations will snowball, censorship makes it difficult for potential protesters to know how many citizens are upset with the war. Most likely, the Putin regime will only further ratchet up repression to deal with a more restive Russian public. Personalist regimes are more likely to use repression in response to protests than are other autocracies, and they are especially likely to do so when engaging in expansionist territorial conflicts (as Putin has with Ukraine). Moreover, many of the Russians fed up with Putin will opt to leave Russia, as some already have, reducing the pressure mounting against the regime.

Putin has also gone to great lengths to inoculate himself against another threat: elite defection. In a highly choreographed meeting of his national security council, Russia’s president forced each member of his team to publicly pledge their support for his decision to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, the two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine. This reduced the council members’ ability to credibly defect and claim that Putin is taking Russia in the wrong direction. Likewise, Putin convened his country’s most powerful businessmen the day after the campaign against Ukraine began to discuss the economic shocks that would follow. Putin’s goal was clear—remind them that their fates are tied to his continuation in power.

ALL FALLS DOWN

But there are also good reasons that the tides might turn. Despite the repression, protests have taken place in more than 58 cities across Russia. The early demonstrations are remarkable not just for the bravery that they reflect, but also for the potential that they hold—protests in highly repressive regimes are more likely to be successful than protests in less repressive environments. That is because when people take to the streets even when the costs of doing so are high, it sends a powerful signal to other citizens that their dissent is shared. In this way, these early antiwar protests have the potential to trigger cascading opposition. The fact that Russians view Putin’s war as being unjust and egregious makes it especially likely to prompt widespread backlash. It is moments of acute injustice that have the greatest ability to mobilize people—as when Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after local officials humiliated him and confiscated his wares, launching the Arab Spring in 2011.

The war also has famous and influential domestic opponents—and they are not just known dissidents. Several Russian celebrities have signed letters opposing the war. Russian tennis star Andrei Rublev wrote “no war please” on a TV camera. The Russian head of a delegation at a major UN climate conference apologized for his country’s invasion of Ukraine, and the daughter of Putin’s press secretary reportedly posted “no war” on her Instagram account. (She deleted it hours later.) There are even signs that Putin’s cozy oligarchs are getting uncomfortable. Former energy magnate Anatoly Chubais posted a picture of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian opposition leader murdered in front of the Kremlin, on his Facebook page. Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska called for peace and negotiations.

Even if Putin’s actions don’t immediately push him from power, the war in Ukraine creates long-term vulnerabilities. Punishing economic sanctions are already shredding the value of the ruble, and the economic damage is expected to intensify. Over time, this could weaken Putin domestically. Personalist dictatorships generally cut government spending when faced with sanctions, making life even harder for average citizens and increasing the odds of growing unrest. Sanctions also tend to be more effective when targeted at personalist authoritarian regimes than when aimed at other types of autocracies because personalist dictators are the most dependent on patronage to keep power. So far, Russia’s elite have never had to choose between the life they wanted and Putin. But Chubais’s and Deripaska’s comments hint that could change as the effect of the sanctions sets in, especially if they are coupled with stepped-up anticorruption efforts by the United States and Europe. If they are squeezed tight enough, Russia’s elites may come to decide that Putin can no longer guarantee their future interests and try to replace him with a leader who would withdraw from Ukraine and prompt the West to unfreeze their assets.

Finally, the conflict in Ukraine may well evolve into a drawn-out insurgency that slowly saps the patience of the Russian public. Research shows that personalist dictators are more willing than other authoritarians to tolerate military disputes with high casualties, but that doesn’t mean their citizens are. In Libya, for example, former leader Muammar al-Qaddafi engaged in heavy-handed repression to maintain control of the country as the costs of his wars increased. But eventually, when faced with dire economic conditions, ordinary citizens violently overthrew his government. In the Soviet Union, a lengthy and expensive invasion of Afghanistan helped drain faith in the Communist Party’s regime. It is not inconceivable that Putin’s grip on Russia will slip if Ukraine becomes a morass.

LOSING TOUCH

Predicting the downfall of an authoritarian leader is a fool’s errand. Weak and embattled autocrats can limp along far longer than analysts expect. Former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe survived hyperinflation and electoral defeat, staying in power until just two years before his death. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro remains in office, even though Venezuela’s economy has utterly collapsed. Similarly, leaders that appear strong can be suddenly ousted, as happened to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali that same year.

But analysts do know that personalist leaders such as Putin are more likely to make foreign policy mistakes than are other autocrats. They surround themselves with yes men who only tell them what they want to hear and withhold bad news, making it difficult for these dictators to make well-informed decisions. Whether or not Putin’s war of choice becomes the mistake that unseats him from power is an open question. But Russia is experiencing rising dissatisfaction from the public, fissures among its elite, and broad-based international punishment. Putin’s downfall may not come tomorrow or the day after, but his grip on power is certainly more tenuous than it was before he invaded Ukraine.

GOPIO Delegation Meets NY Mayor Eric Adams, Sharing Concerns Of NRI Community

GOPIO officials along with other Indian community organizations were invited to New York city Hall on March 1st to discuss issues of the Indian community and perspectives on how the community can be involved in the city. It all started with GOPIO’s condemnation of the defacing of Mahatma Gandhi statue at the Union Square Park in February and GOPIO requesting Mayor Eric Adams to increase police presence in the park area as well as to apprehend and punish culprit.

 City Hall was represented by Mayor Adam’s Chief Advisor Ingrid Lewis-Martin and Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi. The Indian community delegation was headed by GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham along with GOPIO-Manhattan Executive VP Prof. Rajasekhar Vangapaty, VP Dr. Vimal Goyle and Treasurer Braj Aggarwal as well as GOPIO-New York Chapter Hon. Chair Lal Motwani and President Beena Kothari. Other community representatives were Association of Indians in America (AIA) President Gobind Munjal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Executive Director Sudhir Vaishnav, Bhakti Center Program Coordinator Kartikeya Parashar, Society of Indian American Engineers and Architects (SIAEA) President Ketan Shah, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir National Coordinator for Public Affairs Girish Patel and Mukund Mehta, President of India Home and Indo-American Senior Citizen Center of New York.

At the beginning of the meeting, GOPIO Chairman Dr. Abraham thanked Mayor Adams for appointing many Indian Americans in high position of the city administration. In addition to the issue of defacing of Mahatma Gandhi statue, many other issues were discussed at this power meeting of the City officials with the community. The community representatives urged the mayor to keep status que on gifted and talented classes for elementary classes. The delegation told the city officials that the gifted should always be given the opportunity to advance further in pursuit of knowledge and to achieve their full academic potential. Other issues brought out include discrimination, civil rights violations and violence against religious institutions in New York city. Chief Advisor Lewis Martin suggested to set up a committee from the community to work closely with NYPD on some of these issues. The following have been nominated to work on these issues with Girish Patel coordinating this effort along with Braj Aggarwal, Lal Motwani, and Beena Kothari. This committee will reach out to the larger Indian community on these issues.

Once major part of the discussion was on how to bring businesses to New York City, vis-à-vis New York businesses setting up business in India. The delegation told city officials that many Indian companies are setting business outfit in the US and that Indian Americans in New York city could serve as conduit to reach out to businesses in India. It was suggested that whenever trade and business delegations come to New York, City’s International Affairs Department must reach them out and hold meetings with them. Another Business Promotion Committee headed by Dr. Abraham was nominated along with Prof. Rajasekhar Vangapaty, Sudhir Vaishnav, Mukund Mehta, Ketan Shah and Karthikeya Parashar.

The delegation also suggested the city officials to continue with Diwali celebration and to hold a special celebration from the City for the 75th Anniversary of India’s Independence to honor the largest democracy of the world.

After the meeting with city officials, the delegation met Mayor Eric Adams and interacted with him. Mayor Adams gave high marks for the community’s contribution to make New York an exciting city to live.

Why India Repeatedly Abstains Against Russian Invasion Of Ukraine?

In the midst of the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine, India abstained from a United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC’s) resolution sponsored by the United States that deplores Russia’s actions in the strongest terms. Explaining its abstention, India’s permanent representative at the UN, T S Tirumurti said, “India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of events in Ukraine.”

“Dialogue is the only answer to resolve differences and controversies, but it can be daunting at this point. It’s a shame that the diplomatic path has been abandoned. We have to go back to it. For all these reasons, India has chosen to refrain from this resolution, “said Tirmulti.

Russia vetoed the resolution as expected, but China and the United Arab Emirates also abstained from voting, with the remaining 11 members of the UNSC voting in favor of the resolution.

India’s abstention is described by experts as a balanced act of maintaining friends and partners on both sides. It is also a legacy of the non-aligned NeHrvian foreign policy and the way the two countries interacted in the United States. United Nations.

India’s inclination towards the Soviet Union

After independence, India has followed non-aligned policies and maintained a neutral position in the bipolar world. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a group of 120 countries in developing countries and is inconsistent with the major power blocks. It was founded in 1961 under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru with the leaders of Yugoslavia, Egypt, Ghana and Indonesia. Despite the official non-aligned policy, a slight inclination towards the Soviet Union was noticeable during this period.

In December 1971, India and Pakistan fought for 13 days—one of the shortest wars in history—over the humanitarian crisis in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. India had, for months, been trying to convince the world that West Pakistan’s subjugation of East Pakistan was an emergency. Refugees from East Pakistan were pouring into India, and the situation would only be improved with a resolution of the political predicament between West and East Pakistan.

The Soviet Union was the only country that listened. In August of that year, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed the India-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation. Gandhi had held off on completing the agreement for domestic political reasons; she had not wanted to give fodder to those political opponents who accused her of being too cozy with the Soviet Union. But international concerns were soon more pressing: With the signing of the treaty, the Soviet Union provided India both the diplomatic and arms support it needed for the war Gandhi knew was coming, helping India over Pakistan.

While the world in 2020 is in many ways changed from that time, 1971 looms large in the India-Russia relationship today. Moscow was a reliable partner for New Delhi when no one else was. And the United States, meanwhile, actively ignored India’s pleas to deal with the situation in East Pakistan: President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger considered Pakistan a key go-between in opening relations with China.

In a 2018 research paper, Professors Sanjay Kumar Pandy and Ankur Yadav suggest that the foundation of India’s affinity for the Soviet Union can be explained through the profound influence that socialist and Marxist ideas have had on many leaders of the free struggle. increase. “Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose’s ideological devotion, the formation of the Socialist Republican / Army, and the adoption of socialism and national planning by India are the links between socialist thought and the Soviet Union in India’s post-independence history. It’s a proof of sex,” TThey write.

Another reason India seeks intimacy with the Soviet Union is often cited as the growing proximity between the United States and Pakistan. “The true foundation of this relationship was laid when Nehru visited the Soviet Union in 1955 and the Soviet leaders Khrushchev and Bulganin visited again.” Write Pandey and Yadav. Since the 1950s, the Soviet Union has been closely involved in India’s industrial development, including the construction of the Birai and Bokaro steelworks and the establishment of public sector companies such as Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL) and oil and natural gas. Co., Ltd. (ONGC).

The deterioration of Sino-Soviet relations during the war between India and China in the 1960s brought the two countries closer together, leading to the signing of the Indo-Soviet Peace and Friendship Treaty in 1971. The basis of cooperation provided by the Soviet Union in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. This was important to ensure India’s victory.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, relations between India and Russia deteriorated, and Russia recognized the need to build close ties with the United States in order to rebuild economically and politically. In the 1990s, there was a change in India’s idealistic position.

However, by the mid-1990s, Russia had warmed up to India again as expectations for Russia’s western aid did not come true. When Russian President Boris Yeltsin visited India in January 1993, he claimed that both countries had ended a long-term suspension. Over the next few years, several treaties and agreements have been signed between the two countries to establish trade, diplomatic, military, industrial, scientific and technological cooperation. India is currently the second largest market for Russia’s defense industry. Indian military hardware cents are known to be imported from Russia.

In his dissertation, Pandey and Yadav suggest that the joint declaration and agreement between India and Russia shows that the two countries are in much the same position on many global and regional issues. .. Based on the prominent role of the United Nations and international law, common interests, equality, mutual respect, and non-interference in national affairs, “they write.

India and Russia at the United Nations

India’s devotion to Russia was evident in the way the two countries interacted at the United Nations. In an ORF article written by Aparajita Das in 2017, “Subtle balance: India’s voting record at the UN General AssemblyThe author wrote that during the 69 years since India’s independence, India’s voting pattern at the United Nations was the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation for only four years, 1946, 1948, 1950 and 1962.

“It had little to do with the Soviet Union because it was about ideologies such as anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-apartheid, and pro-Palestine, which were the basis of non-allied nations. We also supported the Soviet block, “explains TP Sreenivasan, India’s former Deputy Standing Representative for the United Nations in New York. In her article, Das writes that the tendency towards the Soviet Union is likely to be partly due. “India and the former Soviet Union share a position as an economically developing country rather than an inherent idealistic affinity.”

Since the 1970s, India has approached the Soviet Union and moved away from the United States. India supported the Soviet Union or refrained from voting on many issues such as the Czechoslovak intervention in 1968 and the invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Srinivasan, who abstained from India’s vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, said the sentiment within India’s political corridor was to oppose the Soviet Union, including then Prime Minister Charan Singh. The Soviet Union resulted in India abstaining from UNGA when all other non-allied and Western nations voted against it.

At the same time, India was the beneficiary of Russia’s veto in some cases. The Soviet Union was the only country to reject a UN Security Council resolution against UN intervention in Kashmir in 1957, 1962, and 1971. Friendship with the Soviet Union began in 1955 when Nikita Khrushchev, the secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, came to Kashmir and declared it an integral part of India. Near that, call us from the top of the mountain and we will appear by your side. But in recent years, even Russia has changed its position slightly to argue that the Kashmir issue needs to be resolved through bilateral dialogue. “

Yet another example of Russia’s veto support for India was during the 1961 Gore liberation movement. The United States, Britain, France and Turkey have accused India of invading Goa and proposed a UN resolution calling on the country to withdraw its troops. The veto from the Soviet Union destroyed the resolution. Historian SR Sharma, who writes about Russia’s support for India in the case of Goa, states in his book “India-USSR Relations” (Volume 1): The situation when the West decided to pass a veto and withdrawal resolution at the Security Council. “

Russia’s veto was once again important in determining India’s victory in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. The United States has passed a Security Council resolution calling for the suspension and withdrawal of troops by India and Pakistan. The Russians again vetoed the resolution allowed India to continue fighting for the cause, which ultimately led to the liberation of Bangladesh.

Sreenivasan states that despite the clear affinity between the two countries at the United Nations, there are some differences to remember. The Soviet Union also opposed India on many other issues. Most importantly, India will conduct a nuclear test in 1974. “Although not as loud as the Western nations, the Soviet Union did not agree with the violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” Sreenivasan said. As a result, India and the Soviet Union differed in voting on the disarmament issue.

Another issue that the Soviet Union severely opposed was the expansion of the Security Council. Brijesh Mishra, India’s permanent member of the UN Security Council, proposed in 1979 to expand the number of non-permanent members of the Security Council. While also a permanent member of the Security Council, India opposed the Soviet Union on the issue of collective security in Asia.

US Thinks India Is In “Russia’s Camp” Will Standing With Russia Cost India UNSC Membership?

As India abstained on a US-sponsored UN Security Council resolution that “deplores in the strongest terms” Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine, analysts have begun to worry if India’s stance will cost India in its bid for UN Security Council Permanent Membership.

Even as US President Joe Biden is said to have played the China angle with PM Narendra Modi to get India to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at an emergency meeting of the quad, an Axios report said that the US, in a diplomatic cable that’s now been recalled, asked its diplomats to tell New Delhi that its stance of neutrality on the invasion places it “in Russia’s camp, the aggressor in this conflict.”

No fence-sitting

Listing some talking points, US diplomats were instructed to tell the Indian side that “continuing to call for dialogue, as you have been doing in the Security Council, is not a stance of neutrality.” It further said that the US would “strongly encourage” India “to take the opportunity to support Ukraine in the Human Rights Council, an opportunity you failed to seize in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).”

What triggered it?

While last week India had abstained from a US-sponsored UNSC resolution condemning Moscow’s aggression, on Wednesday, it abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution asking Moscow to “immediately, completely and unconditionally” withdraw from Ukraine.

India’s predicament

While India is heavily dependent on Russia for its military hardware, not to mention seeking its help in evacuating its nationals from Ukraine, it’s also part of the quad — comprising US, Australia, Japan and itself — that seeks to counter an increasingly aggressive China. It has therefore justified the abstentions, saying they were in India’s best interests and based on “certain careful considerations.”.

Meanwhile, the war rages on…

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reached out to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for direct talks between them to end the war that entered its second week. According to the UN, 1 million refugees have now fled Ukraine, even as both countries agreed to hold a third round of talks for a ceasefire along with setting up humanitarian corridors to allow civlians to escape.

Russian forces, which had already captured the port city of Kherson, are battling for control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is Europe’s second largest and is located in southeastern Ukraine.

Biden Had ‘Constructive Conversation’ with Quad Leaders: White House

US President Joe Biden has said that he had a “constructive conversation” with the Quad leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the Ukraine crisis as he reiterated the four-nation grouping’s commitment to sovereignty and territorial integrity around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific.

Psaki added that Biden suggested that members of their national security team should follow up going forward. The Quad leaders convened a virtual meeting on Mar.2 where they discussed the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and assessed its broader implications also reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Besides PM Modi, the meeting hosted by President Biden on Wednesday was attended by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“I met with my fellow Quad leaders Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio about Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine and our commitment to sovereignty and territorial integrity around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific,” Biden tweeted after the meeting.

During the virtual meeting, the Quad leaders prominently discussed Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the eastern European nation.

“The President felt it was a constructive conversation,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference.

“The Quad leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and agreed to meet in person in Tokyo later this year,” the White House said in a press release, indicating that China’s growing assertiveness in the region came up for discussion.

President Biden suggested that members of the respective national security teams should also follow up after the meeting of the four heads of state, Psaki said.

“He (Biden) asked members of their national security team to follow up from there,” Psaki told reporters.

“But I’m not going to get into more details about the conversation beyond that,” she said in response to a question whether India’s defence ties with Russia were discussed.

The Quad meeting took place a day after the US, Australia and Japan supported a resolution at the UN General Assembly to demand an immediate halt to Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops. India abstained from Wednesday’s vote.

In November 2017, the US, India, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the four-nation Quad grouping to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence, amid China’s growing military presence in the strategic region.

In March last year, Biden hosted the first-ever summit of the Quad leaders in the virtual format that was followed by an in-person summit in Washington in September for which Prime Minister Modi had travelled to the US.

The Quad has been focusing on cooperation in areas such as producing vaccines, connectivity projects, facilitating the mobility of students, and looking at promoting startups and technology collaboration.

On the question of whether India-Russia military ties were discussed during the Quad meet, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Mar.4, “US President Joe Biden felt it was a constructive conversation.”

Quad leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, in which the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states is respected, and countries are free from military, economic, and political coercion, the White House said.

The White House said that the Quad leaders reaffirmed their dedication to the Quad as a mechanism to promote regional stability and prosperity.

“They agreed to set up a new humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mechanism which will enable the Quad to meet future humanitarian challenges in the Indo-Pacific and provide a channel for communication as they each address and respond to the crisis in Ukraine,” said the White House.

Russian Attack On Ukrainian Nuclear Plant Triggers Worldwide Alarm

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian troops Friday seized the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe after a middle-of-the-night attack that set it on fire and briefly raised worldwide fears of a catastrophe in the most chilling turn yet in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Firefighters put out the blaze, and no radiation was released, U.N. and Ukrainian officials said, as Russian forces pressed on with their week-old offensive on multiple fronts and the number of refugees fleeing the country eclipsed 1.2 million.

With world condemnation mounting, the Kremlin cracked down on the flow of information at home, blocking Facebook, Twitter, the BBC and the U.S. government-funded Voice of America. And President Vladimir Putin signed a law making it a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison to spread so-called fake news, including anything that goes against the official government line on the war.

While the vast Russian armored column threatening Kyiv remained stalled outside the capital, Putin’s military has launched hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks on cities and other sites across the country, and made significant gains on the ground in the south in an apparent bid to cut off Ukraine’s access to the sea.

In the attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, the chief of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said a Russian “projectile” hit a training center, not any of the six reactors.

The attack triggered global alarm and fear of a catastrophe that could dwarf the world’s worst nuclear disaster, at Ukraine’s Chernobyl in 1986. In an emotional nighttime speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he feared an explosion that would be “the end for everyone. The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe.”

But nuclear officials from Sweden to China said no radiation spikes had been reported, as did Grossi.

Authorities said Russian troops had taken control of the overall site but plant staff continued to run it. Only one reactor was operating, at 60% of capacity, Grossi said in the aftermath of the attack.

Two people were injured in the fire, Grossi said. Ukraine’s state nuclear plant operator Enerhoatom said three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and two wounded.

In the U.S., Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the episode “underscores the recklessness with which the Russians have been perpetrating this unprovoked invasion.” At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said the fire broke out as a result of Russian shelling of the plant and accused Moscow of committing “an act of nuclear terrorism.”

Without producing evidence, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed that a Ukrainian “sabotage group” had set the fire at Zaporizhzhia.

The crisis unfolded after Grossi earlier in the week expressed grave concern that the fighting could cause accidental damage to Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors at four plants around the country.

Atomic safety experts said a war fought amid nuclear reactors represents an unprecedented and highly dangerous situation.

“These plants are now in a situation that few people ever seriously contemplated when they were originally built,” said Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington. “No nuclear plant has been designed to withstand a potential threat of a full-scale military attack.”

Dr. Alex Rosen of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War said the incident was probably the result of military units overestimating the precision of their weapons, given that the prevailing winds would have carried any radioactive fallout straight toward Russia.

“Russia cannot have any interest in contaminating its own territory,” he said. He said the danger comes not just from the reactors but from the risk of enemy fire hitting storage facilities that hold spent fuel rods.

In the wake of the attack, Zelenskyy appealed again to the West to enforce a no-fly zone over his country. But NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg ruled out that possibility, citing the risk of a much wider war in Europe. He said that to enforce a no-fly zone, NATO planes would have to shoot down Russian aircraft.

“We understand the desperation, but we also believe that if we did that, we would end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe,” Stoltenberg said.

The plant fire was the second time since the invasion began that concerns about a potential nuclear accident arose, after a battle at the heavily contaminated site of the now-decommissioned Chernobyl plant.

Russian forces, meanwhile, pressed their offensive in the southern part of the country. Severing Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov would deal a severe blow to its economy and could worsen an already dire humanitarian situation.

A round of talks between Russia and Ukraine yielded a tentative agreement Thursday to set up safe corridors to evacuate citizens and deliver food and medicine. But the necessary details still had to be worked out.

The U.N. human rights office said 331 civilians had been confirmed killed in the invasion but the true number is probably much higher.

In Romania, one newly arrived refugee, Anton Kostyuchyk, struggled to hold back tears as he recounted leaving everything behind in Kyiv and sleeping in churches with his wife and three children during their journey out.

“I’m leaving my home, my country. I was born there, and I lived there,” he said. “And what now?”

Appearing on video in a message to antiwar protesters in several European cities, Zelenskyy continued to appeal for help.

“If we fall, you will fall,” he said. “And if we win, and I’m sure we’ll win, this will be the victory of the whole democratic world. This will be the victory of our freedom. This will be the victory of light over darkness, of freedom over slavery.”

Inside Ukraine, frequent shelling could be heard in the center of Kyiv, though more distant than in recent days, with loud thudding every 10 minutes resonating over the rooftops.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said battles involving airstrikes and artillery continued northwest of Kyiv, and the northeastern cities of Kharkiv and Okhtyrka came under heavy fire.

He said Ukrainian forces were still holding the northern city of Chernihiv and had prevented Russian efforts to take the important southern city of Mykolaiv. Ukrainian artillery also defended Odesa from repeated attempts by Russian ships to fire on the Black Sea port, Arestovich said. Odesa is Ukraine’s biggest port city and home to a large naval base.

The Ukrainian Navy scuttled its flagship at the shipyard where it was undergoing repairs to keep the frigate from being seized by the Russians, authorities said.

Another strategic port, Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, was “partially under siege,” and Ukrainian forces were pushing back efforts to surround the city, Arestovich said. The fighting has knocked out the city’s electricity, heat and water systems, as well as most phone service, officials said.

“The humanitarian situation is tense,” he said. Amid the warfare, there were occasional signs of hope.

As explosions sounded on the fringes of Kyiv, Dmytro Shybalov and Anna Panasyk smiled and blushed at the civil registry office where they married Friday. They fell in love in 2015 in Donetsk amid the fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces that was a precursor to the countrywide war.

“It’s 2022 and the situation hasn’t changed,” Shybalov said. “It’s scary to think what will happen when our children will be born.”

Months After Pledge, India Yet To Submit Emissions Targets

NEW DELHI (AP) — Four months after India announced its “net-zero” target at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, the country has yet to submit its targets for cutting greenhouse emissions, underscoring the difficulty of overhauling energy policy amid a growing population.

When asked about the delay during an unrelated event in the capital New Delhi on Tuesday, Indian environment minister Bhupender Yadav downplayed it, saying that several ministries were still discussing the matter to chart out a roadmap.

India’s Ministry of Environment, which drafts the targets and submits them to the UN Climate Agency, and the country’s top federal official in the Ministry of Power, did not respond to requests for comment this week.

“We don’t have time anymore” to wait for all countries to start reducing emissions, said New Climate Institute scientist Niklas Höhne, who tracks emission pledges for Climate Action Tracker.

Höhne added that it would be useful if India specified targets achievable with its own resources and formulated a clear plan for what could achieved with financial help from other nations.

During November’s conference in Glasgow, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his nation would stop adding greenhouses gases to the atmosphere by 2070 — two decades after the U.S., and 10 years after China. He said that India would increase its current capacity for non-fossil fuel electricity to 500 gigawatts and use energy from clean sources to meet half of its needs. Modi also said that India would cut carbon emissions by a billion tons compared with the previous target and reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45%.

Since these 2030 targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions haven’t yet been submitted to the U.N. climate agency, they can’t yet be counted towards the global effort.

India is not the only country to be slow to turn in targets. The 2015 Paris agreement on climate, which India signed, required countries to submit their climate targets, called Nationally Determined Contributions, by the end of 2020. Many nations missed that deadline. The more urgent deadline was to get submission in before the November negotiations in Glasgow and most nations did. Of the five top emitting nations, only India has not submitted its plans.

The delays underscore the challenges that India faces in achieving these goals. A parliamentary committee calculated that India would require over $20 billion in investment to meet its clean energy targets while only half of that was available — prompting the opposition to ask the government whether it formulated a clear roadmap before committing internationally.

India’s role is key for the world’s climate targets. It has the third-highest emissions in the world, after China and the United States, and its energy needs are expected to grow faster than any other country in the coming decades. At the same time, historically it has contributed least to the world’s cumulative emissions among the group of 20 industrial nations known as the G20.

The typical American, for instance, uses 16 times more electricity than the average Indian, according to data from the World Bank.

Many in the South Asian country of 1.4 billion residents still live in poverty and its leaders have consistently argued that it needs the “carbon space” to grow. Even in the most optimistic scenario, some of India’s future energy needs will have to be met through coal — the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

This was partly why the country had demanded a last-minute change to crucial language during the U.N. climate conference to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal power. India said that developing countries were “entitled to the responsible use of fossil fuels” for their growth and blamed “unsustainable lifestyles and wasteful consumption patterns” of rich countries for the current climate catastrophe.

In any case, India faces the same reality that other nations do: Unless emissions are drastically reduced, large parts of the world will become uninhabitable due to climate shocks like deadly fires, floods, and unlivable heat, a new U.N. report said Monday. The country lost $87 billion in 2020 because of natural disasters like cyclones, floods and droughts, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

At Glasgow, Modi had stressed that India’s goals couldn’t be achieved without adequate climate finance, a stand that India has long reiterated, and called for rich countries to provide $1 trillion in help.

The lack of finance is a vital stumbling block, said Harjeet Singh, an advisor with the Climate Action Network International. He said that if he were to put himself in the shoes of a finance minister of a developing country like India, “How do I do it if I don’t see a stream of funding? Rich countries are failing in their commitment.”

Singh said that there was some hope in the plan announced by the U.S., Britain, France and Germany to provide $8.5 billion in loans and grants over five years to help South Africa phase out coal, a source of 90% of its electricity. But he added that it remained to be seen if that money would make it to those most impacted.

India’s opposition parliamentarians criticized the government for not consulting with chief ministers or state leaders before announcing India’s net-zero targets in December in the parliament. Parliamentarian Kanimozhi Karunanidhi said that India had only a fraction of the solar energy needed to meet what had been promised at Glasgow.

“I want to know how can we achieve so much? What we’ve done is nothing compared to what we’ve promised to the world,” said Karunanidhi, from Thoothukkudi in southern India.

Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receive support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

US Economy Adds 678,000 Jobs In February, Unemployment Dips To 3.8%

The U.S. added 678,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in February, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.

Unprecedented demand for workers and resilient consumer spending helped power another strong month of job growth in February. Economists expected the U.S. to add roughly 400,000 jobs last month, far less than the actual haul in the February jobs report, and push the jobless rate to 3.9 percent.

“If we see more numbers like this moving forward, we can be optimistic about this year. Employment is growing at a strong rate and joblessness is getting closer and closer to pre-pandemic levels,” said Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed.

“In these uncertain times, we cannot take anything for granted. But if the recovery can keep up its current tempo, several key indicators of labor market health will hit pre-pandemic levels this summer,” he said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said the U.S. saw “widespread” job growth in February led by a surge in service sector hiring — a promising sign for industries still recovering from the onset of the pandemic.

Leisure and hospitality employment rose by 179,000 jobs in February, led by a gain of 124,000 jobs in restaurants and bars. Professional and business services added 95,000 jobs, the health care sector added 64,000 jobs and construction employment rose by 60,000 after staying flat in January.

Transportation and warehousing employment rose by 48,000 in February, and retail trade employment rose by 37,000.

The BLS also revised the December and January job gains up by a combined 92,000 jobs.

While the labor force participation rate stayed flat, the February jobs report showed other signals of labor shortages easing and more Americans returning to the workforce.

Average hourly earnings rose 5.1 percent over the past 12 months, down from 5.7 percent in January. Wages have risen sharply as employers struggled to fill a record number of job openings from a smaller pool of workers than before the pandemic.

The number of Americans who said they could not look for a job because of the pandemic — who are not counted as unemployed — fell from 1.8 million in January to 1.2 million last month. The number of people who lost hours at work because of a pandemic-related shutdown also sunk from 6 million in January to 4.2 million in February.

“With the Omicron wave receding rapidly, the labor market has unlocked faster jobs growth. Additionally, employer demand for workers exceeds labor supply significantly, which is likely to keep jobs growth healthy even if demand slows amid disruptions from the war in Ukraine and rising interest rates in coming months,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor.

While the U.S. labor market held strong in February, economists are concerned about the potential fallout of the war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia in response. A surge in oil prices, steep drop in economic activity or retaliation from Russia could dent the U.S. economy and risk stoking inflation even higher after hitting the highest annual rate in 40 years.

The jobs report will keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates in March to help cool inflation and tame what Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday called an “overheated” labor market. Even so, Powell said the deep uncertainty driven by the war could still force the Fed to adjust the pace of future rate hikes.

“The war in Ukraine reemphasizes the risk of inflation in the economic recovery, especially as price increases are concentrated in areas that the Federal Reserve may not have much control over,” Zhao wrote.

“Ultimately, however, today’s jobs report helps build confidence in the resilience of the recovery and its ability to continue driving jobs growth despite unanticipated headwinds.”

Russia Stands Isolated, After Putin’s Forces Invade Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provoked an international outcry that has led to a more unified response from the international community than many might have expected.

It’s also led to a series of surprise moves, from Germany joining efforts to arm the Ukrainian resistance to Switzerland imposing sanctions on Russia.  Germany’s decision to send anti-tank weapons and Stinger missiles to Ukraine represented a reversal of a longstanding policy of not sending weapons into conflict zones. Berlin also said it would boost military spending to above 2 percent of gross domestic product.

“This is really the first time that we’ve seen Germany do that since the end of the Cold War,” said Charles Kupchan, former senior director for European affairs on the National Security Council under the Obama administration.

The moves are good news for the White House and President Biden, who devoted significant time to uniting allies behind a common approach to counter Russian President Vladimir Putin in the event of a Russian invasion.

Through the Cold War and the decades since, nothing could persuade Finns and Swedes that they would be better off joining NATO — until now.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has profoundly changed Europe’s security outlook, including for Nordic neutrals Finland and Sweden, where support for joining NATO has surged to record levels.

A poll commissioned by Finnish broadcaster YLE this week showed that, for the first time, more than 50% of Finns support joining the Western military alliance. In neighboring Sweden, a similar poll showed those in favor of NATO membership outnumber those against.

“The unthinkable might start to become thinkable,” tweeted former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, a proponent of NATO membership.

Russia’s weeklong assault on Ukraine has spawned a refugee crisis and killed thousands of civilians, with world leaders and government officials warning that Russian-led atrocities are likely to escalate.

Widespread revulsion to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has united the global community as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress — at least for the most part.

“President Putin has been one of the greatest unifiers of NATO in modern history, so I guess that is one thing we can thank him for,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week.

House lawmakers told The Hill they were heartened by resounding bipartisan support for the administration’s strategy toward Ukraine, signaled with spontaneous applause during a classified briefing by senior administration officials at the Capitol on Monday.

Biden also received bipartisan applause when he rebuked Putin during his first State of the Union on Tuesday.

And Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) emerged from the classified briefing for senators on Monday to tell reporters that “the administration has done a really sound job in bringing together our allies and friends from around the world and presenting a united front against a very evil, ambitious leader of Russia.”

Thomas Rid, professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, said during a panel discussion that Putin’s actions had achieved “​​what no European politician has achieved in a generation, he made the European Union discover its spine.”

He added that Russia’s invasion has managed “to get Germany over historic trauma. The historic trauma was for a long time never to fight again, avoiding wars by not fighting, by not providing weapons, but of course now we have shifted and now have the approach that avoiding war means defending yourself.”

But not all close American allies and partners have fallen in line with Biden’s strategy.

Israel initially held back from condemning outright Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Jerusalem relies on strategic communication with Moscow to carry out military operations in Syria against Iran and its proxy forces.

That hesitation drew pushback from stalwart Israel allies in Congress. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he was “concerned” over Israel’s position but, after speaking with Israeli officials and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., said he is encouraged by new steps from Jerusalem.

This includes Israel voting in favor of a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday that condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has also spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and is delivering a 100-ton humanitarian aid package. Bennett has also reportedly offered Israel to act as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine.

But Zelensky, who is Jewish, told an Israeli news outlet on Thursday that while he is appreciative of support expressed by the Israeli public, “I don’t feel the Israeli prime minister has wrapped himself in the Ukrainian flag.”

“I spoke with the Israeli leadership, we have not bad relations — but these things are tested in times of crisis,” he reportedly said during a press conference in Kyiv.

Graham told The Hill that Jerusalem’s initial hesitation was a “hiccup.”

“I came away pleased,” he said of talks with Israeli officials. “They jumped on the [U.N.] resolution yesterday, they’ve been providing pretty robust assistance, they’re having constant contact with the Ukrainian president and his team, so I think we had a hiccup early on and hope we’re in a better position and I believe we are.”

Another holdout country that is challenging the administration’s global response is India, which has a historically close relationship with Moscow rooted in importing and relying on Russian military equipment.

India abstained from voting at the U.N., in both the Security Council and the General Assembly, on the resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Donald Lu, the assistant secretary of State for South Asian affairs, told lawmakers on Wednesday that the administration has been in a “pitched battle” to get India to more publicly commit itself to the U.S. position against Russia and is weighing sanctions against New Delhi over its Russian military stockpiles.

Biden spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday along with leaders of Australia and Japan under the banner of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a security grouping focused on the Indo-Pacific.

Psaki did not address a reporter’s question over whether India’s relationship with Russia was discussed, saying only that the Quad conversation was “constructive.”

Pakistan is another challenge for the U.S. over its close ties with Russia. Pakistan is a key military partner for the U.S. in its counterterrorism operations in South Asia.

Lu, during the hearing with lawmakers, said a visit by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to Moscow on the day that Russia launched its invasion against Ukraine has hurt communication between Washington and Islamabad.

“I think we’re trying to figure out how to engage with the prime minister following that decision,” the assistant secretary said.

And China has not backed down from supporting Russia’s position in the conflict, despite reported efforts by the administration to recruit Beijing to help stop war in Ukraine.

Relations between the U.S. and China are at a nadir, and export controls and sanctions recently imposed on Russia by the West may ultimately have the effect of pushing Russia and China closer together.

In the Gulf, Saudi Arabia has resisted calls to increase oil exports to prevent energy prices from spiking for global consumers amid Russia’s invasion.

Psaki on Thursday said that administration officials last engaged directly with the Saudis in Riyadh on global energy markets in February related to Russia’s then-potential invasion of Ukraine, but had no announcements about upcoming communication.

The United Arab Emirates, another key oil exporter, has also resisted taking a public stance against Russia. The UAE abstained from voting on the U.N. Security Council for the resolution against Russia, but voted in the affirmative in the General Assembly.

Yousef Al Otaiba, the Emirati envoy to the U.S., said that relations between Washington and Abu Dhabi are going through a “stress test, but I am confident that we will get out of it and get to a better place,” Reuters reported.

Biden is coming under increasing pressure to impose sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas sector. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday added her name to a list of lawmakers who have backed a ban on U.S. imports of Russian oil.

AAHOA Board Members On The Strides Women Have Made In Hospitality Industry

The March issue of Today’s Hotelier magazine is on newsstands everywhere, and in honor of Women’s History Month, AAHOA Female Director Eastern Division Lina Patel and AAHOA Female Director Western Division Tejal N. Patel are featured on the cover. In the cover story, Lina and Tejal share their perspectives and insights on the strides women have made in the industry and the progress still to come for the association.

As is true for numerous industries, leadership positions across many facets of hospitality have long been dominated by men. But times are changing, and women make up growing per-centages of leadership positions at hotels, within the brands, at supplier companies, and pretty much everywhere else. And groups such as the Castell Project have put considerable effort into accelerating the numbers of women in hospitality leadership and owner-ship. AAHOA also is on the front lines of this fight, its members are playing an increasingly important role in leading the industry forward in the march toward gender equality in leadership.

Here, we feature perspectives from two women who hold leadership positions within AAHOA. They stand on the shoulders of those who came before them while carrying the torch for those who will come after.

By LINA PATEL, CHO, FEMALE DIRECTOR EASTERN DIVISION

After immigrating from India to the U.S. in the early 1980s with my parents, I practically grew up in a hotel. Like many AAHOA Members, I cleaned rooms, did the laundry, worked front desk shifts, and even mowed the lawn. I vividly remember coming home after school and immediately racing to the hotel lobby to begin my shift. Today, countless shifts and many years later, I’m the owner and operator of a Days Inn by Wyndham in Cincinnati, OH, and my portfolio includes Wyndham, Marriott, Choice, and IHG properties across the Eastern U.S.

I’m also privileged to serve on the board of the Franchise Advisory Council for Days Inn, where I help fine- tune brand standards before passing them to hotel owners with the goals of maximizing revenue, saving money, and providing resources needed to operate their hotels efficiently. Through my time in this industry, I’ve become experienced in negotiating and forming international business partnerships, and I started an international company catering to international extreme adventure travel, Himalayan Glacier Trekking, in 2010.

As a second-generation hotelier, I have faced more challenges than I care to recount here, and I don’t cite my accomplishments to brag. Instead, they demonstrate the difficulties that many of us have faced on our ascent into leadership. And while the journey certainly isn’t easy for anyone in this industry, women undeniably face additional obstacles. However, as Michelle Obama said, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” The women of AAHOA are always ready to board the limitless learning platform provided by AAHOA, and there are many examples besides myself of women who are breaking down barriers and helping to level the playing field.

“I have faced more challenges than I care to recount here, and I don’t cite my accomplishments to brag. Instead, they demonstrate the difficulties that many of us have faced on our ascent into leadership.”

As an AAHOA Board Member and industry veteran, I want to help create opportunities for women hoteliers and provide a platform for us to learn from and inspire each other, and set everyone up for years of progress and success. For example, my team and I have hosted more than 45 women hotelier education and networking sessions across the nation, planned three women hotelier conferences, and hosted five brand-development days and six educational sessions at national conventions with 1,200 women attendees being the largest educational session on the AAHOA platform!

AAHOA provides opportunities for women hoteliers to build relationships with local officials and decision makers in our local governments to ensure they understand our businesses and our industry. Without question, women play an important role in the hospitality industry, and especially in the families of so many AAHOA Members. Although many of our mothers and sisters played an equal role in helping these businesses succeed, we have yet to see enough women serving in prominent industry roles, but I’m proud that AAHOA strives to lead by example and counts growing numbers of women leaders among its membership.

Women are the backbone of America’s hotel industry, and they remain underrepresented in the industry. AAHOA is committed to changing that, as its initiatives to help women hoteliers take their rightful place in our industry started with education and networking events. When we all work together, the opportunities are limitless.

By TEJAL N. PATEL, CHO, CHIA, FEMALE DIRECTOR WESTERN DIVISION

AAHOA Members represent the heart of the hotel industry. They are the owners and operators of more than 60% of all hotels in the country that not only provide jobs for their employees but also invest in their local communities. Their hotels are more than places where people sleep; they’re gathering spaces, community centers, and often sources of support for those who need it most.

When you walk into an American hotel, you’re most likely walking into the life’s work of an AAHOA Member, whose contributions help strengthen the economy.

Since the 1940s, Asian-American hoteliers have been planting the seeds critical to the growth and success of the industry generation after generation. The entrepreneurs of this diaspora are the American Dream personified. They are AAHOA.

The association will continue promoting and protecting the interests of its members through advocacy efforts, as it has for the past 30-plus years. However, as we enter this “rebuilding/recovery” phase, AAHOA Members are at an important juncture that will shape the industry during the next five years and beyond.

Poor prospecting of hospitality labor, increase in costs, and supply chain problems are just a handful of the myriad issues owners face. Furthermore, the need for hotel franchising reform has only been amplified by frustrated franchisees.

Our industry is no stranger to downturns and adverse circumstances. Resiliency is a key pillar of our entrepreneurial spirit. AAHOA has gone through bumps, yet we have come so far since we were founded. But, there is still work left to do.

There are many potential challenges that could threaten industry recovery, but none is more threatening than a lack of unity and teamwork from all fronts. The ability to put ego aside and seek out other ideas from others – whether inside or outside of our industry – is key to getting the best results.

“To excel today and tomorrow, each AAHOA Member must continue to learn and grow in unity.”

Success comes not just from constantly working hard and thinking strategically but working on the right things at the right time. It’s easy to tear each other down when someone has a different perspective than you or challenges your thinking.

But, that’s the critical point that allows us to collectively make impactful change. Most of our membership is rooted in the South-Asian diaspora, yet there is diversity among us. It’s important to understand that there are many different ways of thinking, and our diversity is what enables us to do great things together, united.

The impact of AAHOA Members during the past 30 years has been tremendous.

AAHOA Members were the first to own their hotels and take control of their destinies. AAHOA Members were among the first to embrace technology, globalization, and franchising. AAHOA Members took control of their businesses and turned them into profit-generating assets. They expanded their businesses, brought in new blood, and raised capital to acquire and build more hotels.

To excel today and tomorrow, each AAHOA Member must continue to learn and grow in unity. It is my sincere hope we all come together and focus on the future trajectory of our industry and association. I also hope our members’ presence will be felt in every facet of hospitality: from the guestroom to the boardroom to the halls of Congress.

Shane Warne: Cricket Legend From Australia Dies At 52

Legendary Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne, one of the greatest cricketers of all time, has died of a suspected heart attack aged 52.

Warne took 708 Test wickets, the second most of all time, in 145 matches across a stellar 15-year international career.

He had been found unresponsive in his villa on the Thai island of Koh Samui on Friday, said his management company.

“It is with great sadness we advise that Shane Keith Warne passed away of a suspected heart attack,” it added.

“Despite the best efforts of medical staff, he could not be revived.

“The family requests privacy at this time and will provide further details in due course.”

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said Warne’s family will be offered a state funeral for him.

Warne helped Australia win the 1999 50-over World Cup and claimed 293 dismissals in 194 one-day internationals between 1993 and 2005.

In 2000, he was named one of the five Wisden cricketers of the century, alongside Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs and Sir Viv Richards.

He retired from international cricket in 2007 following Australia’s 5-0 Ashes clean sweep of England at home.

Warne also retired from first-class and List A cricket later that year, ending a seven-year spell with Hampshire, who he had captained since 2004.

He continued to play Twenty20 franchise cricket until retiring from all formats in 2013.

Warne worked regularly as a commentator and pundit, as well as holding coaching roles at T20 franchises.

He is survived by his three children with former wife Simone Callahan.

His death comes on the same day as legendary former Australia wicketkeeper Rod Marsh, who died aged 74 of a heart attack, and was announced shortly after the close of play on day one of Australia’s first Test in Pakistan.

Warne’s mastery of leg-spin – a style of bowling that declined during the 1970s and 1980s when fast bowlers dominated – revolutionised cricket.

His magnificent control and canny variations bewildered even the greatest batters of his generation.

Only Sri Lankan off-spinning great Muttiah Muralitharan, with 800 dismissals, has taken more Test wickets than Warne.

He was also a fine slip fielder and capable lower-order batter, scoring 3,154 runs at an average of 17.32 and is the only batter in Test history to surpass 3,000 runs without making a century – falling for 99 twice, against New Zealand in 2001 and against England in 2005.

Warne was a larger-than-life figure whose fame transcended cricket and his sense of fun inspired successive generations of fans.

“Shane was a once-in-a-century cricketer and his achievements will stand for all time,” said Australia men’s Test captain Pat Cummins.

“So many of us in the playing group grew up idolising him and fell in love with this great sport as a result.”

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley added: “Shane was one of the most talented and charismatic cricketers we have ever witnessed.

“He loved cricket, had an extraordinarily astute understanding of the game and his influence and legacy will last for as long as it is played.

“We are in a state of complete shock at his sudden passing and our thoughts are with his family, his many friends and the legion of fans from all over the world who loved and admired Warnie for his unbelievable bowling skills, his humour, warmth and engaging personality.”

Ashes dominance

Warne holds the record for the most Ashes wickets in history, with 195 dismissals in 36 Tests.

He made his Test debut against India in 1992 after only seven first-class matches for his native Victoria, but announced himself on the world stage in astonishing style in the 1993 Ashes in England.

With his first ball of the series, Warne bowled England batter Mike Gatting with a stunning delivery that pitched outside leg stump and clipped the top of off stump.

It became widely known as the ‘ball of the century’.

That was the first of six Ashes victories in a row involving Warne, until the run was ended by England’s famous 2-1 win in 2005, despite the leg-spinner taking a staggering 40 wickets in that series.

Warne gained revenge in 2006-07 when Australia won 5-0 and retired on the same day as long-time team-mates Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer.

World Cup and domestic honors

Warne was a key part of Australia’s run to the 1996 World Cup final, where they were beaten by Sri Lanka.

He became vice-captain under Steve Waugh and starred in the 1999 World Cup triumph, being named man of the match after taking 4-33 in the final against Pakistan.

However, he was sent home the day before the 2003 tournament started after testing positive for a banned diuretic and served a one-year ban from the sport.

Australia would go on to win the 2003 World Cup by beating India.

Warne led Australia 11 times in ODIs but never captained the Test team, with batter Ricky Ponting replacing Waugh.

Warne captained Hampshire for four seasons during a spell with the county from 2000 to 2007, and they named a stand after him at their Ageas Bowl ground in 2012.

Under Warne, Hampshire won the one-day Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy in 2005 – although he was unable to play in the Lord’s final which was in the middle of the 2005 Ashes – and narrowly missed out on a County Championship title the same year.

He played his entire domestic career in Australia for Victoria.

He also played for Melbourne Stars in Australia’s Big Bash League and Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, also coaching the latter.

In last year’s inaugural Hundred he coached London Spirit.

‘One of cricket’s great characters’

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew

Shane Warne wasn’t just one of the greatest spin bowlers in the game’s history – he was also one of cricket’s great characters.

His partnership with seamer Glenn McGrath made Australia virtually invincible in the 1990s.

In terms of a wrist-spinner’s repertoire, Warne perfected the art completely, spinning the ball vast distances and always with a touch of theatre.

He took that character with him into the commentary box and beyond cricket. He featured regularly on the world poker circuit, and while brushes with the authorities were also a feature of his life, his contribution to cricket will never be forgotten.

‘He was the greatest showman’ – tributes flood in for Warne

Former England captain Sir Andrew Strauss: “I’m utterly shocked and saddened. Shane Warne was cricket’s greatest star and he was a guy who, I suppose, you felt the rules of life didn’t apply to him. To hear about his untimely demise is genuinely shocking and I know the whole cricket world is in a great deal of mourning.”

Strauss added: “He was the greatest showman. There were other great cricketers when you look at their records would potentially equal Shane’s or maybe better it. But there was no greater star in cricket than Shane Warne, certainly in the time I have been around. You felt every time you were on the pitch against him it was his show. You were just a small part of his show.

“He used that to his advantage in terms of getting you out. He had such charisma and such passion for the game that it was infectious. If you were lucky enough to spend time with him off the pitch it was always a privilege. A man of great generosity of spirit, great passion for the game and a man who is going to be sorely missed.”

England captain Joe Root: “Really shocked and really sad to hear such a legend of the game passed so suddenly.

“We had just started the game and it filtered through the dressing room. It’s been quite a quiet dressing room off the back of it. It’s hit everyone quite hard if I’m being brutally honest.

“My experiences of Shane were of someone who absolutely loved the game of cricket. He was always a joy to be around, he gave so much energy to the sport. As a kid growing up he was a massive idol of mine and someone you wanted to emulate. The way he could win a game on his own, his skill levels were incredible.

“I’d have been 14 when the 2005 Ashes was on, in many ways that series was a massive influence on my career.”

Former England captain Mike Gatting: “It’s been devastating really, unbelievable. When you think he’s just 52 and he’s been an absolute legend in the game. I don’t use that word lightly either. It’s been unreal. We’ve lost a great cricketer and a great guy.

“The figures talk for themselves but he was inspirational to many, many young children. Certainly if you look at county cricket now, where he played himself for Hampshire.

“He inspired a lot of kids to take up spin bowling. The way he approached the game, he was knowledgeable, he loved the game. He was dedicated to the game but he also had a bit of fun as well.”