“India And Indian Americans Need To Think About The Possibility Of A Reduction In Defense Supplies From Russia:” Dr. Sampat Shivangi

The world order has changed since the Ukraine war, said Dr. Sampat Shivangi, National President of Indian American Forum and a past Legislative Committee Chairman of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) after he attended a breakfast meeting last week with Senator Roger Wicker, the top Republican Senator from Mississippi.

“Here is a great opportunity for India that Senator Roger Wicker who is a great friend of India can help India in providing the defense needs of the country and with better technologies than Russia, even though Russia has been a steady partner of India,” said Shivangi, after his 1:1 meeting with the Ranking Member of the Senate Arms Services Committee last week.

“In a changing world order, post-Ukraine invasion, India and Indian Americans think about the possibility of reduction in defense supplies from Russia to India a steady friend and partner of India for many decades,” the veteran AAPI leader told this writer. “With plummeting and devastating effects of war, can Russia provide assured suppliers to India especially possible ban of Western digital supplies to Russia in their defense production?” Dr. Shivangi, a physician, and an influential Indian-American community leader asked.

The ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia has exposed the vulnerabilities of Russia made weapons and their effectiveness. While India has been a long-time friend and defense purchaser of Russia. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, since 2010, Russia has been the source of nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of all Indian arms imports and India has been the largest Russian arms importer, accounting for nearly one-third (32 per cent) of all Russian arms exports.

Between 2016 and 2020, India accounted for nearly one-quarter (23 per cent) of Russia’s total arms exports and Russia accounted for roughly half (49 per cent) of Indian imports, the CRS report said.

Dr. Shivangi is of the opinion that “It is apt time India should think alternative suppliers source. What can be a better source than US? We have a great opportunity here as our Senior Senator from Mississippi has been elected as a Ranking member of the US Armed Service Committee of the US Senate.  With his assistance and good offices, especially after 2+2 summit, I hope and look forward to such increased collaboration with the successful Indo pacific QUAD treaty.

With India being in a tough neighborhood, Russia will not be able to provide or be a major supplier to India as with its war with Ukraine it has lost an enormous amount of its war machinery and a Western ban on high tech imports. As a result, it will be tougher for Russia to provide its arms and technology to India, Shivangi said in a statement after his meeting with Wicker. It’s noteworthy that during Monday’s 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, India and the US have agreed to step up military-to-military cooperation.

Dr. Sampat Shivangi has been a conservative life-long member of the Republican party, hailing from a strong Republican state of Mississippi.  He is the founding president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian-origin in Mississippi and is the past president and chair of the India Association of Mississippi. Advisor to US department of Health & Human Services at NHSC Washington, DC 2005-2008 President Bush Administration

A conservative life-long member of the Republican Party, Dr. Shivangi is the founding member of the Republican Indian Council and the Republican Indian National Council, which aim to work to help and assist in promoting President Elect Trump’s agenda and support his advocacy in the coming months.

As the National President of Indian American Forum for Political Education, one of the oldest Indian American Associations, Dr. Shivangi, has lobbied for several Bills in the US Congress on behalf of India through his enormous contacts with US Senators and Congressmen over the past three decades.

A close friend to the Bush family, Dr. Shivangi has been instrumental in lobbying for first Diwali celebration in the White House and for President George W. Bush to make his trip to India. He had accompanied President Bill Clinton during his historic visit to India.

Dr. Shivangi is a champion for women’s health and mental health, whose work has been recognized nationwide. Dr. Shivangi has worked enthusiastically in promoting India Civil Nuclear Treaty and recently the US India Defense Treaty that was passed in US Congress and signed by President Obama.

Dr. Sampat Shivangi, an obstetrician/gynecologist, has been elected by a US state Republican Party as a full delegate to the National Convention. He is one of the top fund-raisers in Mississipi state for the Republican Party. Besides being a politician by choice, the medical practitioner is also the first Indian to be on the American Medical Association, the apex law making body.

Days after the high-profile visit to India and the remarks by Mr. Daleep Singh, Deputy National Security Advisor to President Joe Biden at the White House recently, Dr. Shivangi hoped that this would not have a major impact on the Indo-US ties. “Many in India and many Indian Americans felt that Daleep Singh’s remarks were abrasive, coming from a fellow Indian American. Hopefully, his remarks have not muddled the water as reported in Indian media,” Mississippi-based Shivangi said in a statement. “India is a major QUAD partner of the US and will continue to have strong ties and mutual respect and friendship in the coming days,” he added.

Singh got front-page attention as the architect of economic sanctions against Russia in its war against Ukraine, he said. During his visit to India, Daleep Singh, in his interaction with reporters, cautioned India against expecting Russia to come to the country’s defense if China were to violate the Line of Actual Control as the two countries are now in a “no limits partnership”.

While moderating a session on “Latte with Legislators” organized by AAPI, Dr. Shivangi lamented that there is “a new wave of Anti-Indian American sentiments especially against Indian Physician group which makes up 15% of Doctors in the US,” Dr. Shivangi, feels, “IIt may be due to Indian Americans have the highest per capita income and highest education level in the nation.”

Calling it as “prejudicial” Dr. Shivangi, urged that “we need to resolve this prejudice against minorities. With this in mind, I requested Congressmen Jamie Ruskin from Maryland to seek his advice and possible way to resolve this. Congressman Ruskin was very supportive and offered his unconditional support.”

After meeting with the top Republican Senator, Dr. Shivangi thanked the Senator Roger Wicker for advocating that the US should help India address its defense needs so as to reduce its dependence on Russia. Recently, Wicker introduced a Bill in the US Senate to cut the backlog of thousands of Indians who are waiting on their Green Cards for decades. “He was gracious enough to introduce this Bill at my request, which was a great honor for me and many Indian Americans. He continues to fight for the cause of Indian Immigrants,” Dr. Shivangi said.

India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Advocates For Regulating Cryptocurrencies At A Global Level

India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is on an official visit to the USA to attend spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. She will also participate in G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meetings.

During her visit, Sitharaman will take part in bilateral meetings with several countries, including Indonesia, South Korea, Sri Lanka and South Africa. The FM is scheduled to hold one-on-one meetings with top executives from the semiconductor, energy and other sectors of priority for the Indian government, the ministry said.

Sitharaman on Tuesday made a case for regulating cryptocurrencies at a global level to mitigate the risk of money laundering and terror funding. Participating at a high-level panel discussion organized by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Sitharaman said: “The risk which worries me more on the non-governmental domain is essentially you’re looking at unhosted wallets across the borders, across the globe… So, regulation cannot be done by a single country within its terrain through some effective method and for doing it across the borders, technology doesn’t have a solution which will be acceptable to various sovereigns at the same time applicable within each of the territories,” she said.

“I harp on that very much because I think the biggest risk for all countries across the board will be on the money laundering aspect, and also on the aspect of currency being used for financing terror,” she said.

However, she said, cross border payments between countries will become very effective through Central Bank-driven digital currencies. RBI is planning to come out with a central bank-backed digital currency using blockchain technology in 2022-23.

During the current visdit, Sitharaman will participate in the meetings of the finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 nations, apart from holding bilateral meetings with many countries, the finance ministry said in a statement. Sitharaman will also be attending an event at the Atlantic Council and meeting with faculty members and students at Stanford University in California.

The FM is scheduled to hold one-on-one meetings with top executives from the semiconductor, energy and other sectors of priority for the Indian government, the ministry said.

She is also scheduled to meet World Bank president David Malpass and take part in a high-level panel discussion on “Money at a Crossroad” hosted by IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva.

She will be also meeting with CEOs from the semiconductor, energy, and other industries the Indian government is concerned with.  “In a high-level meeting, the Finance Minister will also meet Mr. David Malpass, President, World Bank. During the course of the visit, Smt. Sitharaman will participate in a high-level panel discussion on ‘Money at a Crossroad’ hosted by the Managing Director, IMF,” the statement read.

The visit comes amid Washington and NATO’s pressures to push India into taking an anti-Russia stance on the Ukraine conflict, in addition to pressing New Delhi to join the West-led sanctions against Moscow. India has been pushing back against such pressures, aligning itself with its interests with Russia.

Last Monday, US President Joe Biden met with Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi virtually.  Biden underlined that Washington and New Delhi share “common values and resilient democratic institutions” before the meeting.

However, many are saying that no matter how much Washington emphasizes the strategic partnership with India, the differences between the two on their approach to the Ukraine conflict is the elephant in the room. It also does not change the fact that Washington, throughout the meeting, pressured India to condemn Russia. In fact, it was the theme of the meeting.

Over the past 2 years, the US and India have had close interactions, amid Washington’s attempts to contain China in Asia. However, their “friendship” could not withstand the tough tides of the Ukraine war and thus the two are now at odds.

India has refused to participate in Washington’s and Europe’s sanctions against Russia. Furthermore, unlike a plethora of countries that have cut economic ties with Russia, India maintained it and, actually, increased Russian energy imports and helped keep the Russian ruble stable. 

Jaishankar’s Parting Message To US: “We Know What We Are Doing”

Indian’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar delivered a clear message to both US officials and non-officials during his visit this week: India follows global developments closely, it is fully aware of its national security interests, and, lastly, it knows how to protect and pursue them.

In short: please stop thinking for us, stop telling us what is in our best interest, what isn’t, and what is it that we should do.

Countless US officials, lawmakers, policy experts and media personalities had taken upon themselves in recent weeks to tell India what is in its best interest regarding the Russia-Ukraine war, why it should condemn Moscow and drastically reduce its reliance on Russian military hardware or its support, specially in any future conflict with China.

“Thank you for the advice and suggestions in your question. I prefer to do it my way and articulate it my way,” Jaishankar said at a joint press availability with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh  last week.

A reporter had asked him if condemning Russia for invading Ukraine would “best reflect India’s foreign policy goals and international standing”. If Jaishankar seemed snappy, he probably meant it.

“This seems to be my day to get a lot of advice and suggestions from the press, so thank you for joining that,” the minister said to another reporter at the availability. “But look, we watch what’s happening in the world, like any country does, and we draw our conclusions and make our assessments. And believe me, we have a decent sense of what is in our interest and know how to protect it and advance it. So I think part of what has changed is we have more options than we did before.”

This reporter had asked if India was concerned over the growing diplomatic, military and economic ties between China and Russia. And in light of that concern, is India going to reduce its reliance on Russia economically and militarily?

Though directed at reporters, Jaishankar’s remarks could not have been lost on the two US officials on the stage with him, Blinken and Austin. Multiple American officials including Under-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh  had pressed India in recent weeks to forcefully condemn Russian invasion suggesting that Moscow cannot be a reliable partner any longer because of its growing ties with Beijing; they underscored the vow of “no-limits” in the relationship professed recently by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

Singh kicked up a furor during a visit to India in March when he tried to hard-sell this line with a threat of “consequences”. Nuland sought to clean up the mess left behind by Singh telling NPR last week: “In our conversations with India, whether it was my conversations to Daleep Singh’s or Secretary Blinken, it is not a matter of warning. It’s simply a matter of reminding India that Russia will try to abuse their longstanding defence relationship to get advantages here, and that it is not a good bet to help Russia out during this brutal conflict.”

Jaishankar did not name any of the US officials or mention their remarks, but probably meant them as well for trying to “remind” India of its security concerns as if India was unable to see them for itself.

So the minister continued in the same vein Wednesday when he said this in an interaction with Indian media reporters: “We follow everything and international relations which are of interest to us, which affects us. And obviously, you know, where there are developments or interactions. You mentioned Russia and China, we also follow America and China. So, and rightly so, because that then gives us a view of, you know, what is happening in the world and how our interests are impacted in some way, from that. So, we do monitor and do assess and do on where, where it is warranted, respond to what happens in international relations, especially between major, major states.”

The career diplomat-turned-politician left Washington DC and all who live and work here and fret about India with a clear and unequivocal message: We know what is best for us and we know what we are doing. (IANS)

Nishant (Neal) Patel Becomes Youngest Chairman in AAHOA History

Texas hotelier Nishant (Neal) Patel, CHO, CHIA, is the new Chairman of AAHOA’s Board of Directors. Patel became chairman at the conclusion of the 2022 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show in Baltimore, which was the second major convention AAHOA has held since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The convention was held at the Baltimore Convention Center.

“I’m thrilled to be stepping up to the role of chairman and honored to serve as the association’s youngest chairman in history,” Patel said. “AAHOA has gone through a lot of changes over the past year, and I’m looking forward to helping lead this great organization into the future.”

Patel became an AAHOA Member in 2012 and soon volunteered to serve as an AAHOA Ambassador. He joined AAHOA’s Board of Directors in 2016 after being elected as the Young Professional Director Western Division, a position he held for three years.

“If you’ve ever wondered to what extent AAHOA serves its membership, I am a perfect example,” Patel said. “My parents didn’t have the opportunity to have AAHOA as a resource, but thankfully, when I took over the family business, AAHOA was there for me as I navigated the hospitality industry. AAHOA provided me with the educational tools I needed to run a hotel successfully.”

Patel grew up in Surat, India, and nearly two decades ago, his family left everything they knew to start a new life in Mississippi. “Like the majority of AAHOA Members, we were in search of the ‘American Dream,’” Patel said. “My parents wanted to create a better life for their children and leave a legacy that generations to come would be proud of.”

Patel is a second-generation hotelier who grew up in the industry wearing many hats as he helped his family run their first 20-room independent property in Laurel, MS.

These days, Patel calls Austin, TX, home and is the managing partner of Blue Chip Hotels, which owns and operates multiple hotels. Blue Chip Hotels has more than 1,200 rooms in several states among both branded and independent properties.

“My parents always told me that if you don’t try, you won’t succeed. If you talk too much, you’re not learning,” Patel said. “As I step into my new role, my focus is on our members and serving them well. Going forward, I will be the facilitator to make things happen.”

Patel is inspired to give back to the hospitality industry through service. He serves on the HITEC Advisory Council and promotes organ donor awareness through his volunteer work with Samaj Saves Lives.

“AAHOA helped us create generational success,” Patel said. “After all that AAHOA has given me and my family, I’m looking forward to serving this great organization and giving back to the AAHOA community through listening, learning, bringing new ideas to the table, and enacting change at every level of the organization. Thank you for placing your faith in me as AAHOA’s next Chairman. I am here to serve you, our valued members.”

AAHOA Announces New Secretary and Board Members

Kamalesh (KP) Patel of Santa Cruz, CA, is the new AAHOA Secretary. Patel is the CEO of Aarav Hospitality, LLC, and AKS Hospitality, LLC.

AAHOA Members also elected the following ten members to the Board of Directors:

Alabama Regional Director: Sanjay M. Patel

Central Midwest Regional Director: Arti Patel

North Carolina Regional Director: Pinkesh Patel

Northeast Regional Director: Preyas Patel

Northwest Regional Director: Taran Patel

Upper Midwest Regional Director: Kalpesh Joshi

Washington DC Area Regional Director: Deepak Patel

Director at Large Eastern Division: Pinal Patel

Director at Large Western Division: Hitesh Patel

Young Professional Director – Western Division: Tanmay Patel

“I’m thrilled to welcome our new AAHOA Secretary and all of our newly elected board members. Over the last 30 years, our volunteer leaders have worked tirelessly to make AAHOA a leading hotel association in the U.S. and advocate for initiatives that help the hospitality industry thrive,” said incoming AAHOA Chairman Nishant (Neal) Patel. “As we continue on this road to recovery, it is encouraging to see so many members rising to the occasion and serving America’s hotel owners. I can’t wait to start working alongside the new AAHOA Officers, our Board of Directors, and the entire AAHOA Team. Together, we will work on taking this great association to the next level.”

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.

India Collection Of Books At The Edison Public Library With Govt. of India Help & GOPIO-Edison

The Edison Library in partnership with the Indian Consulate and Global Organization of People of Indian origin Edison NJ Chapter (GOPIO-Edison) hosted the “India Collection Launch” event to donate a large collection of Indian books to be made available thru the Public Libraries in the Middlesex County. There were more than 200 books donated during the initiative to the Library by the organizers and many supporting Organizations like Gujarati Literary Academy of North America, Gandhian Society, Indo American Cultural Society of USA, Assam Sahitya Sabha and Zakir Husain Circle. The grand sponsor of the program was Sabinsa Corporation, a food supplement company located in East Windsor with operations in India.

Photo: Dignitaries, Library and GOPIO officials at the launch before lighting of the lamp, from l. to r. Library Asst. Director Debra Sarr, Library Vice President Lisa Krauze, Library Director Allan Kleiman, Edison Council Vice President Joyce Ship-Freeman, Library President Patricia Massey, Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal, Parikh Worldwide Media Chairman Dr. Sudhir Parikh, GOPIO Vice President Ram Gadhavi, Piscataway Councilman Kapil Shah, Edison Councilman Ajay Patil, Sabinsa Corporation CEP Asha Ramesh, GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham and GOPIO-Edison President Pallavi Belwariar

The Indian Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal was the chief guest along with Consul for Community Affairs A.K. Vijayakrishnan. Many prominent Indian American community leaders, elected council members from Edison and nearby cities, media and a large number of community leaders and Indian American residents from Edison and nearby towns attended the event to show their support to this initiative by GOPIO-Edison.

After a prayer song by GOPIO-Edison President Pallavi Belwariar, a moment of silence was observed for the victims of Russia’s war in Ukraine and for the passing away of GOPIO-Life Member and community leader Yash Paul Soi early this month.

Library Director Allan Kleiman said he was very excited by this collection and told that these books can be issued to anyone in the Middlesex County. He then introduced Library President Patricia Massey who welcomed availability of classic India related books and Indian language books from the library.

GOPIO International Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham who initiated this effort told the audience that Indian Americans have done extremely well professionally, politically and financially, and that community should do more for the larger society. In this regards, GOPIO-CT chapter successfully launched India Collection of books at the Norwalk, CT and Stamford, CT libraries.

“Edison and nearby towns in New Jersey have one of the largest concentration of Indian Americans and to serve our community members as well as to make a better understanding of India to the local population, GOPIO has joined hands with Govt. of India through its Consulate in New York to launch India Collection of Books at Edison Public Library with several hundreds of books including several classics and Indian language books in Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati, Assamese and other languages,” Said Dr. Abraham.

Speaking on the occasion, Consul General Randhir Jaiswal spoke on the vibrant library system in America that helps spread knowledge and make it a developed country. He said that American Indian partnership is crucial for world peace and security and lauded the efforts of Diaspora in getting this initiative to Edison. He said that the libraries in USA are the best in the world and making the Indian Books available thru this system will help Diaspora with the availability of rare Indian books.

GOPIO Vice President Ram Gadhvi, who is also chairman of the Gujarati Literary Academy, contributed over 60 Gujarati books in this initiative said that the libraries would not be outdated in spite of digitalization and that many new Indian immigrants feel comfortable reading a hard copy of the book.

the Newly reorganized GOPIO-Edison President Pallavi Belwariar spoke on chapter’s plans to organize many community service programs in Edison and nearby areas including supporting and volunteering at soup kitchens, youth programs and welcoming new Indian students to join the nearby Rutgers University.

One of the main Organizer of the event, Pradeep “Peter” Kothari, a veteran community leader who had organized the Oak Tree Indian businesses and serve as the Founder and President of Indo American Cultural society of USA, recognized the work by many Indian American leaders and thanked the town council members for attending. He said someone should write a book on how the community evolved over the period of 35 years and said he was happy to see the community at a comfort zone at present. Kothari then introduced members of Edison Council and nearby towns.

Edison Town Council Vice President Joyce Ship-Freeman complimented the Indian Consulate, GOPIO-Edison and the library for this new initiative. Retired as a literary coach, Councilwoman Ship-Freeman has said that library is her second home and that books are still an important medium of knowledge.

Edison Councilman Ajay Patil said that he had been wanting this for the last 4 years and thanked everyone involved in getting this initiative to its fruition. Piscataway Councilman Kapil Shah said that he had been doing community work for 31 years and said that he was first to take grant from NJ state for video and books for the local library couple of years back. He said that books were still the authentic source for knowledge.

Dr. Sudhir Parikh, a recipient of Govt. of India’s Padma Shri award, recognized the legends of the community. He said that education is the best charitable activity that one can give to anyone. He also said that he ensured that his newspaper is distributed across all libraries in NJ.

Federation of Indian Association President Kenny Desai said that there was nothing more pious than knowledge. He lauded the community on the initiative to donate a huge collection of books and make them available to the Public in Edison and East Coast.

The ceremony was followed by a Holi celebration with a musical program by singer Pallavi Belwariar and Yogesh who entertained the audience with Holi themed Hindi songs.

GOPIO-Edison team member Chitranjan Sahai Belwariar gave vote of thanks and thanked Council General, councilman and all dignitaries who attended. He thanked the Edison library staff for helping support this great initiative. He also thanked the media and sponsors for the event. The program was concluded by Library’s Assistant Director Debra Sarr and invited everyone for a networking dinner.

Consulate provided 140 books while the community organizations including GOPIO, Gujarati Literary Academy, TV Asia, Assam Sahitya Sabha and Zakir Husain Circle donated 110 books. It was a full house of about 120 people attending the event. The registrations were closed a day earlier due to limitation of space.

GOPIO is collecting old Indian classic books and contemporary books in all Indian languages from the community to donate to other libraries. Those who want to donate may contact GOPIO at 203-329-8010 or send an e-mail to gopio@optonline.net

Fewer Homes, High Prices, Rising Interest Rates Impede Home Buyers Across USA

Shortly after moving to South Florida for a new job with the U.S. military, Shannon Kaufman and his wife, Wendy, signed up for a whole other mission: buying a home.

For months, they scoured listings, strategizing late into the night on which homes to target and working out how much they could afford, even if it meant using some of their retirement savings.

After visiting 200 listings and making offers on 15 homes that ultimately didn’t pan out, the Kaufmans finally found a home that fits at least some of their needs. They’ll be renting it, however.

“We found a place that’s smaller than we want, but it’ll work until we have something built or until the market cools off,” said Shannon Kaufman, 47.

America’s housing market has grown increasingly frenzied, and prices are out of reach for many buyers, especially first-timers. This spring, traditionally the busiest season for home sales, is more likely to deliver frustration and disappointment for aspiring homebuyers than it is homeownership.

The number of homes for sale nationally remains near record lows, fueling fierce competition among buyers vying for fewer homes. From Los Angeles to Raleigh, North Carolina, when a house does hit the market, it typically sells within days.

Bidding wars are common, often driving the sale price well above what the owner was asking. And would-be buyers planning to finance their purchase with a home loan are often losing out to investors and others able to buy a home with cash.

A quarter of all homes sold in February were purchased with cash, up from 22% a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. Real estate investors accounted for 19% of transactions in February, up from 17% a year ago.

Nichol Khan, a project manager, and her husband Ed moved to Mesa, Arizona, from Phoenix two years ago to shorten their commute to work. Home prices in the Phoenix area have jumped 20% from a year ago to $500,000, according to Realtor.com. “The prices just keep going up and up,” Khan said.

The couple has lost out on more than a dozen homes they bid on. Some of the homes ended up selling for less in cash than the couple had offered. “We don’t have $500,000 in cash,” said Khan, 42. “We just could not be competitive with that.”

Fewer homes on the market and high prices have been the hallmark of the housing market for the past 10 years or so. Now, rising mortgage rates further complicate the homebuying equation. Higher rates could limit the pool of buyers and cool the rate of home price growth — good news for buyers. But higher rates also weaken their buying power.

Interest rates for loan has climbed to around 4.7%. A year ago, average rates hovered just above 3%, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. The increase follows a sharp move up in 10-year Treasury yields, reflecting expectations of higher interest rates overall as the Federal Reserve moves to hike short-term rates in order to combat surging inflation.

Would-be buyers who applied for a home loan in February faced a median monthly mortgage payment of $1,653, including principal and interest, an increase of 8.3% from a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

“It’s hard to believe, but I do think it’s going to be tougher this year, in some respects, than it was in previous years,” said Danielle Hale, Realtor.com’s chief economist. “So far, at least, we have seen the number of homes for sale continue to decline and prices continue to rise. Those two factors combined suggest that the competitive market is going to keep buyers on their toes.”

Buyers should set their sights on homes that are listed well within what they can afford, experts say.

“You should be looking 15%-20% below their limit; that gives them room for appraisal gaps, it gives them room for negotiating,” said Tracy Hutton, a broker with Century 21 in Indianapolis.

Being well prepared sometimes isn’t enough when a homeowner prefers to accept an all-cash offer, rather than sell to a buyer with financing.

Wendy Kaufman in South Florida couldn’t even get into an open house for a property on the market after she revealed the couple had a mortgage backed by the Veterans Administration.

“When they saw I had a VA preapproval they said, ‘Sorry we don’t want to work with you.’” she said.

Sometimes, buyers don’t have a chance to make an offer before a home is snapped up, sight unseen. In the Miami area, so-called “blind offers” have become common as a way to get around other buyers, said Rafael Corrales, a Redfin agent.

One reason is the ultra-low level of homes for sale, which for the greater Miami metropolitan area, was down 55% in February from a year ago, according to Realtor.com.

While every market is unique, there is one common hurdle across the U.S.: affordability. The median U.S. home price jumped 15% in February from a year earlier to $357,300, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The San Jose, California, metro area had 40% fewer homes for sale in February than a year ago, according to Realtor.com. Buyers there have to navigate some of the most expensive home prices in the nation. The median home listing price climbed 13.3% to about $1.36 million in February from a year earlier.

The market trends are a bit more welcoming for buyers in the Midwest, including the Indianapolis metropolitan area, where the number of homes for sale was down about 23% from a year ago. The median home price there stood at $287,000 in February, up 8.5% from a year earlier.

In Raleigh, home listings were down a whopping 55% in February from a year earlier. Competition for fewer homes helped push the median home price to $430,000, a 9% increase from February 2021.

Those trends made for a more competitive market for first-time buyers like Lisa Piercey and her husband, Alex Berardo. First-time buyers made up 29% of all homes sold nationally last month. That share has averaged 31% annually over the past 10 years.

The couple began looking in December for homes at $350,000 or below. They offered $5,000 over the asking price on two properties but lost out to rival bidders.

“That was all we could afford,” said Lisa Piercey, a 32-year old project manager. “It’s really defeating, really disappointing.”

In the end, the couple bought a townhome in a new construction community, though they see it as a stepping stone to a more spacious house with a big yard.

“Its big enough that we can still start our family and then move when the market hopefully dies down in a couple of years,” she said.

Time For A Higher Poverty Line In India

The time has come for India to raise its poverty line from the existing extreme poverty line of $1.90 per person per day to the lower-middle income (LMI) poverty line of $3.20, a level some 68 percent higher. This may seem odd to aspire to in what is not even the first post-pandemic year, but that is the main message coming out of our recent IMF working paper “Pandemic, Poverty and Inequality: Evidence from India.”

No one should be surprised at this need for a higher poverty line. Per capita GDP growth in India averaged 3.5 percent per annum for twenty years from 1983 to 2003. In 2004, the official poverty line was raised by 18 percent, when the head count ratio (HCR) was 27.5 percent. Rapid growth (5.3 percent per annum) and an improved method of measurement of consumption (the modified mixed recall period (MMRP) rather than the Uniform Recall Period (URP)), resulted in the HCR reaching the low teens in 2011-12.

The poverty line should have been raised then, as Bhalla (2010) argued. Most countries change from the concept of absolute poverty to relative poverty as they get richer, and India should too. Relative poverty—subject to minor debate—is mostly chosen to mean an HCR level of around a quarter or a third of the population. Hence, the$1.90 poverty line was already too low in 2011-12 and is extremely low today.

The HCR of the $1.90 poverty line (Figure 1) has shown a steep decline since 2004—from approximately a third of the population in 2004 to less than 1.5 percent in 2019. These numbers are lower than those shown in the World Bank’s Povcal database, the most commonly used source, because Povcal does not correct for the misleading uniform recall period used or for the provision of food subsidies.

Figure 1. The poverty rate in India steeply declined starting in 2004

Source: NSS 2011-12 MMRP data; Private Final Consumption Expenditure (PFCE)  growth rates for estimates of monthly per capita consumption; authors’ calculations.

By our estimates, in the pre-pandemic year 2019, extreme poverty was already below 1 percent and despite the significant economic recession in India in 2020, we believe that the impact on poverty was small. This is because we estimate poverty (HCR) after incorporating the benefits of in-kind food (wheat and rice) subsidies for approximately 800 million individuals (75 percent of rural and 50 percent of urban residents). This food subsidy was not small and rose to close to 14 percent of the poverty line for the average subsidy recipient (Figure 2) in 2020. This was enough to contain any rise in poverty even in the pandemic year 2020.

Figure 2. Food subsidies contained any increases in poverty

Source: NSS 2011-12 MMRP data; Private Final Consumption Expenditure (PFCE)  growth rates for estimates of monthly per capita consumption; Indian poverty line very close to PPP $1.9 per capita per month; authors’ calculations.

A notable feature of the pandemic response was the provision of a free extra 5 kilograms of wheat or rice per person per month via the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) program plus 1 kg of pulses. This was in addition to the existing food transfers of 5 kg per capita per month of wheat or rice at subsidized prices. Total subsidized food grain in 2020 therefore amounted to 10 kg, which is the average per capita level of food (wheat and rice) consumption by Indian citizens for the last three decades.

The additional food subsidy was a pandemic-centric response. We would conjecture that a cross-country comparative study could show that this policy response was possibly the most effective in the world. Hence, the Indian experience can provide lessons for individual countries, and multilateral agencies concerned with effective redistribution of income.

Poverty measurement) in India was in 2011-12. The following survey conducted in 2017-18 generated results that have not been officially released, on the grounds that the data were not of acceptable quality. Our paper has an extensive discussion on the validity of the evidence regarding this controversial decision where we conclude that the data is indeed unreliable and of extremely questionable quality and hence should not be released. A very recent World Bank April 2022 study by Edochie et. al. suggests support for our conclusion and inference.

Our paper presents a consistent time series of poverty and (real) inequality in India for each of the years 2004-2020. Our estimate of real inequality (Figure 3) shows that consumption inequality has also declined, and in 2020 is very close to the lowest historical level of 0.28. Poverty and inequality trends can be emotive, controversial, and confusing. Consumption inequality is lower than income inequality, which itself is lower than wealth inequality. And each can show different trends. The levels and trends are different, and intermingled use should carry a warning about this when discussing “inequality.”

Our results are different than most of the commentary and analysis of poverty in India. All the estimates are made in the absence of an official survey post-2011-12. A large part of the explanation for the difference in results is because of differences in definition. Our paper makes a strong case for the acceptance of the official consumption definition (accepted by most countries and also recommended by the World Bank); it should be measured according to the classification of consumption according to the nature of the good or service consumed. This is the MMRP method for obtaining consumption expenditures.

The Indian government has officially adopted this method, and the above mentioned “ill-fated” 2017-18 survey was the first time when the National Statistical Organization exclusively measured consumption (and poverty) according to the MMRP definition.

However, many studies continue to rely on the now obsolete uniform reference period (URP or 30-day recall for all items) method. For example, a very recent World Bank study estimated the HCR to be around 10 percent in 2019; it uses the outdated (URP) definition of consumption and does not adjust for food subsidies. Incidentally, both in 2009-10 and 2011-12, the URP and MMRP poverty estimates diverged by approximately 10 percentage points, as did their respective estimates of mean consumption.

Thus, given the approximate magnitude of definition differences observed both in 2009-10 and 2011-12 and making the necessary adjustment for food subsidies, the World Bank poverty estimate for 2019 is likely to be very close to our estimate.

Inclusive growth is a very relevant policy goal for all economies. With the pandemic ebbing and the IMF’s expected growth for India rebounding very strongly for three successive years from 2021-23, Indian policymakers will soon be confronted with a policy choice—how long should they keep the extra PMGKY subsidy? This query is part of a huge success story of poverty decline. Additionally, another query pertains to whether policies should move toward targeted cash transfers instead of subsidized food grains.

In the past, the key argument in support of a policy shift to cash transfers was to reduce leakages, but our results indicate that leakages have substantially been reduced over the last decade even in the in-kind food transfer scheme. In fact, the recent food transfer program was a very successful intervention, especially during the pandemic when supply chains were breaking down and there was heightened uncertainty. Under normal circumstances, cash transfers are likely to be more efficient, and they retain broadly the same allocative outcomes as food transfers. The debate therefore now should be on the efficiency trade-offs associated with use of either in-kind or cash transfers as the key instrument of poverty alleviation.

These debates are significant given the improvement in targeting of transfers and are consistent with the objective of building a modern social security architecture in developing countries.

Accumulating all the evidence, the strong conclusion from our work is that Indian policy has effectively delivered both growth and inclusion, and in a fundamental sense has faithfully followed the Rawlsian maximin principle—maximizing the welfare of the poorest.

Rachna Sachdeva Nominated As Ambassador To Mali

President Joe Biden has nominated Indian-American diplomat Rachna Sachdeva Korhonen as his envoy to Mali, the White House said on April 15th.

A career member of the US Foreign Service, Korhonen currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary and the Executive Director of the combined Executive Offices of the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

She has previously had assignments at the US Embassy in Kuwait and the US Consulate General in Mumbai. She was the Consul General and Principal Officer of the US Consulate in Dharan, Saudi Arabia.

She also led the Management Section of the US Embassy in Colombo, and, in Washington, she served as a Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Management.

Among her other assignments, Korhonen was the Supervisory General Services Officer and Senior Human Resources Officer at the US Embassy in Riyadh, and the Political Chief of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kirkuk, Iraq.

A New Jersey native, Korhonen has a bachelors in Computer Science and Mathematics and worked in the corporate sector before joining the State Department.

Korhonen’s is the third nomination of an Indian American to the office of Ambassador. Biden has also nominated Puneet Talwar to Morocco and Shefali Razdan Duggal to the Netherlands.

Youth Icon’s Fight For Rights Among India’s Destitute

Pooja Shukla, 25, a socialist candidate, has lost her maiden elections to the provincial parliament in Uttar Pradesh (UP), India. But Shukla is no loser.

A day after the results were announced on March 10, Shukla was back to a rousing reception in her constituency in North Lucknow to thank her supporters for polling 1,04,527 votes for her.

She was with the people again on March 18 on Holi, the festival of colour held annually to celebrate the end of winter and in anticipation of new beginnings.

Shukla told the IPS that she was hoping to win. Of course, she is disappointed, but electoral defeat would not stop her from continuing her struggle to get economic and social justice for the people of her constituency.

Although Shukla belongs to the upper caste community of Brahmins, she has worked hard to develop a personal connection with a cross-section of those who live in North Lucknow, one of the city’s nine constituencies. Lucknow is the capital of UP, the country’s largest, but economically and socially, it is one of its least developed states. More than 400,000 voters are registered in North Lucknow, nearly half of whom are impoverished women.

The constituency is home to Muslims, upper-caste Hindus and thousands of impoverished people belonging to communities who have been living for decades in makeshift shanties, often on the bank of open drains. Some are daily wage earners, and others are without paid work.

Shukla won hearts because she has knocked on every door in North Lucknow and continues to spend time with citizens.

“I have visited every single home in every single neighbourhood in North Lucknow. I will continue to do so as I really care for members of all communities that reside within my constituency,” Shukla adds.

This first-time contestant had faced Dr Neeraj Bora, a seasoned politician from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing party. Despite the formidable challenge, Shukla was leading on the day the votes were counted. She was ahead before her rival finally defeated her by 33,985 votes until noon.

Out of 403 seats in the UP-state parliament, the socialists won 111 seats. The Samajwadi Party (SP) of socialists came a distant second to BJP’s 255 seats, but the party has emerged as the largest opposition party in UP.

This was a golden opportunity to strengthen democracy by converting the numbers won by the SP into a viable opposition to the ruling party, Shukla believes. A well-meaning, vocal opposition is needed, she says, when the ruling party seems to want to wash its hands of all its social responsibility in favour of outsourcing businesses and privatising even essential services like education, health, and employment opportunities.

“Democratic values strengthen when the opposition to the ruling party is strong,” says Shukla, who believes that elections are held to elect representatives who will provide affordable homes, education, and health facilities to voters.

Shukla feels that socially conscious people don’t have to be Marxists to dream of justice in society. The desire to want to see all citizens cared for fairly and equally by the state is a desire of all decent human beings.

Shukla was the youngest candidate in the polls, nursing a constituency that is a sprawling, chaotic cluster of college campuses, traffic jams, markets spilling from every corner and rows of slums with open drains that overflow and swallow up lives during rainfall.

Her dream is to invite educationists to open model public schools for the majority of the poor people in her constituency. She wants low-cost houses for the poor and free health services. She says that time is on her side. She will find many more opportunities to contest elections.

“To win elections is important for me as I want to be a lawmaker and make sure that people-friendly legislation is passed in parliament to protect the interest of the most vulnerable in the country,” Shukla says.

Until she makes it to parliament, she plans to work tirelessly to raise literacy in her constituency and lower the poverty rate. She wants clean drinking water, cleaner drains, and better roads. Women’s safety is her priority, as is a regular and fair wage for the many communities of artisans like potters and weavers.

Shukla has witnessed the police lathi-charge citizens who dared to ask the government for jobs. Social activists have been jailed, kicked around, and beaten in lockdown for participating in protests and questioning the government in UP. There are countless incidents of gruesome crimes perpetrated against women.

Most political parties want women’s votes but are reluctant to share power with them. Therefore, politics in UP today is a constant struggle for any woman who joins the male-dominated world of politics. Shukla’s biggest strength is her belief in herself.

The daughter of a small property dealer, Shukla, learnt to be fearless from Beena, her mother. At first, Beena wanted her to marry a suitable Brahmin boy. However, the constant cry to marry died down after she decided to contest the elections.

Her parents suggested that Shukla choose a more respectable profession like teaching instead. The parents were pained when she was jailed in 2019, and countless criminal cases were filed against her for participating in street demonstrations.

Shukla is the eldest of three sisters, and she feels responsible for her siblings. The family reminded her she was a role model, but she refused to give up her politics. Her determination to remain engaged in public life is less frowned upon now. At least her immediate family members and neighbours are supportive. She is no longer considered a black sheep within the Brahmin community that sees itself as exceptionally respectable.

Shukla has been in the limelight since 2017 when she and fellow students waved black flags at the motor convoy of those in power. She was part of a group of students protesting against the use of Lucknow University funds for a political party event.

She was angry when jailed for protesting peacefully. After 20 days in jail, the University refused her admission for postgraduate studies. Shukla started a hunger strike and forced the University to allow all the students to continue their studies.

Today she is a youth icon. She has emerged as a leader and a role model not just for her siblings but for thousands of other youngsters, students, women and some male members of society.

Shukla says that she stands for a democratic, secular and inclusive India. How will she realise her dream in the cutthroat political culture where all that matters is power and money?

There is no substitute for commitment and hard work, she says with a smile. (IPS UN Bureau Report)

When The World Is On The Brink, Neroes Of Washington Are Fiddling!

The war between Russia and Ukraine is in its second month, and apparently, there is no end in sight! Where are all the peace seekers and peacekeepers? Why is the Secretary-General of the United Nations not shuttling between Kyiv and Moscow? How come there is little interest in finding a peaceful solution to this crisis? It is quite bizarre to think that after witnessing the destruction, atrocities, and mayhem at the battleground, it is business as usual for the rest of the world!
The Washington elites, led by Neocons, are cheerleading from the sidelines and egging the Ukrainians to continue with the fighting. Yet, they are reluctant to give the Ukrainians the necessary offensive firepower to win a war. Sitting in their comfortable multi-million abodes in the Washington suburbs, they are toying with the lives, property, and the future of the nation of Ukraine. It is another smart move in their geopolitical games where they would never let a severe crisis go to waste.

With the recent sinking of the Russian warship Moskov, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukraine president, has upped the ante. To the western media, Zelensky is this great war hero fighting the evil forces from the trenches. He conducts press conferences or addresses various legislative bodies across the west in his military fatigues, often echoing the speeches of Winston Churchill, coaxing the rest of the world to join him in his fight with the Russians.

‘However, one wonders how a genuine national leader could allow the subjugation of his people to this level of destruction and suffering and let his motherland be laid to ruins.’ He has been urging women and children of Ukraine to welcome the Russians with Molotov cocktails while lamenting the toll of the civilian deaths. Now that he has succeeded in keeping Russia’s army at bay from taking Kyiv, he must be dreaming about becoming the ultimate warrior who has saved Europe from the Russians. Of course, the power elites in Washington must be reassuring him of their unflinching support and are delighted to see the travails of the Russians on the battlefield.

However, it is a sad spectacle for the rest of the world where innocent people, some of them with their hands tied to their back and shot with their bodies strewn across the street in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv. More and more, cities across Ukraine resemble Dresden, Germany, during World War II, where allied planes obliterated cities with fire bombings. In many cities, including Mariupol, the absolute magnitude of this great human tragedy is yet to be unfolded.

Looking at the reports from the battlefield, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, may have committed war crimes targeting innocent civilians as a strategy to terrorize the citizenry and bring them into submission. Shelling the residential buildings and destroying the ecosystems of civilian life, Putin is presiding over a despotic regime that is authoritarian, vengeful, self-serving, and may stoop down to any low level to achieve his nefarious objectives. He has miscalculated the resilience and underestimated the willpower of the Ukrainians while exposing the weak links in his mighty military machine the U.S. has long been touting to increase the Pentagon budget.

Whether a country is not directly affected, the economic consequences of harsh economic sanctions of this disastrous war are felt across the globe. The conflict has already triggered turmoil in the financial markets. In addition, it has drastically increased the uncertainty about the recovery of the global economy after the Covid Pandemic. Due to the high commodity prices, the inflationary pressures may well lead to a recession and even social unrest.

Russia is the world’s 3rd oil producer and 2nd natural gas producer. Ukraine is a key producer of Corn, wheat, and sunflowers. Therefore, continuing this war will disrupt the energy and essential commodities marketplace and may also intensify the risk of stagflation in both advanced and emerging economies. In a prolonged conflict,  tough western sanctions and disruptions of Russia’s oil and gas exports might blow global markets with higher interest rates and slow down the world economy. The slide in Russia’s ruble has been expected, but this could also put the dominance of the U.S. dollar in question as the world’s reserve currency.

Most importantly, according to various press reports, Russia has warned the U.S. and NATO this week that “unpredictable consequences” could be if they continue sending Ukraine “sensitive” weapons. In response, Ukrainian President Zelensky said in an interview with CNN on Friday that the world should be prepared for the possibility of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons. What should we conclude about these threats and counter-threats?

Undoubtedly, our world is at an inflection point. One may not dismiss the possibility that the Russian bear being pushed to the wall through western sanctions and battlefield losses due to the constant funneling of advanced weapons from NATO countries might react even more destructively. The world might pay even a heavier price. Ukrainians are proud people who may want to have assurances of no more wars in the future while protecting their independence and way of life.

Many would argue that the creation of the Taliban and subsequent attack on 9/11 by the Al Qaeda from the safe haven in Afghanistan was the direct result of the American foreign policy run amok after the Soviet invasion of that country. Is history about to repeat itself? Why is the world watching and waiting instead of actively engaged in finding a peaceful solution?
Today, we live in a global village without any boundaries to communication and relationships. It is in the interest of the world citizenry to keep the faith and persevere for peace to avert a potential carnage the world has never seen before! (George Abraham is a former Chief Technology Officer of the United Nations)

Indians Continue Their Hold On H-1B Visas

Indians cornered nearly three-fourths of H-1B visas issued by the US to speciality foreign workers in 2021, continuing their stranglehold on this highly sought after professional ticket to work, live and, finally, settle down in America.

The US approved 407,071 H-1B petitions in 2021 and 301,616 of them 74.1 per cent were for Indian workers, according to the latest report on this topic released recently by the Department of Homeland Security, the government agency that oversees immigration.

Indians accounted for 74.9 per cent of the approved petitions in 2020. The US allows American employers to hire speciality foreign workers on H-1B for positions they are unable to fill with local Americans. Top American companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook are among leading users of this visa programme as are US subsidiaries of Indian IT companies such as Infosys, TCS and Wipro.

These foreign workers are hired either from their countries of birth or residence or from US colleges and universities Sundar Pichai, the Google CEO, was hired on H-1B when he was studying in the US. They can live and work here for three years and, if approved, another three years. A large number of them go on to Green Cards permanent residency sponsored by their employers.

Indians have had a tight grip on the H-B visa programme for years, at that three-fourths mark. People from China have been a distant second with 12.1 per cent. The next three were Canada with 0.9 per cent, South Korea also with 0.9 per cent and Philippines with 0.7 per cent. The line-up was the same in 2020, with almost the same numbers.

Deepening The Educational Ties Between India And The United States

This week I visited Howard University to talk about how to deepen the educational ties between India and the United States. As I have come to learn throughout its history, Howard University has played an important role in building bonds between our countries. And really, it’s hard to overstate the importance of those bonds not just as we look back but, I believe, as we go forward.

Let me tell you about one key figure from what has been already a very storied past. Howard Thurman, former dean of Rankin Chapel here at Howard. Going back to September of 1935, Thurman led a four-member delegation on what was a monthslong pilgrimage to India. He was trying to find lessons from the country’s independence movement that might be relevant to the racial justice movement in the United States.

Near the end of the trip, Thurman met with Mahatma Gandhi. They talked, the books record, for about three hours, covering a wide range of issues: segregation, faith, nonviolent resistance. The conversation and the trip made a lasting impression on Thurman. So when he came back to Howard, he developed his interpretation of nonviolence – not as a political tactic, but as a spiritual lifestyle. He shared his views with sermons, speeches, and eventually what came to be an incredibly influential book, Jesus and the Disinherited.

Gandhi’s views and Thurman’s interpretation of those views – of nonviolence – would influence one of the greatest figures in our nation’s journey, Martin Luther King, Jr. As he traveled the country laying bare the sins of segregation, Dr. King carried two books with him. One was the Bible, the other – Jesus and the Disinherited.

These connections and so many others across our shared history make clear that our people do share a special bond, and that as the world’s oldest and largest democracies, our countries always have something to learn from each other.

That’s why we see our cultural and educational ties continue to grow every single year. We’re incredibly fortunate in the United States to have 200,000 Indians studying at our universities, enriching our campuses, enriching our fellow citizens. And we see many American students studying and working in India through programs like Fulbright, the Gilman fellowships, including some who are here today.

To make it easier for people to continue learning from each other, Indian Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar and I announced yesterday the Working Group on Education and Skill Training, which will bring academic institutions in the United States and India together to develop new joint research programs. The group will also focus on creating more opportunities for universities to partner on exchange programs that the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Lee Satterfield runs so that ultimately more of our people can learn alongside each other.

I know the importance of building stronger bonds between U.S. and Indian higher education systems. Many students have benefited from studying in both countries. Students are using that knowledge now to teach in the United States and Indian respectively. That’s a very powerful thing. Students are developing recommendations on how India and the United States can support each other’s clean energy transitions. They are promoting trade between our countries and more equitable opportunities that flow from that trade. And that’s just to name a few examples of the things that people are working on.

So in foreign policy, one of the things we talk a lot about is the importance, the strength, the imperative of people-to-people ties. We do a lot of work as diplomats between our countries, but ultimately what really matters are those bonds between our people – between students, between businessmen and women, between academics, between tourists and others. This is what really brings us together.

And when we’re talking about that, in effect we’re talking about students: those who do the daily work of sharing their perspectives, sharing their knowledge with each other, and in so doing, building what are really lifelong personal and professional relationships with one another. That’s what makes all the difference because these kinds of connections, the people-to-people connections, many of them fostered by the exchange programs that we run, they actually build lifelong connections and a lifelong appreciation for each other’s countries, cultures, histories, and futures. And as a result, we are better able to take on shared challenges together.

I believe firmly that the United States and India need continued collaboration, hard work, and leadership for the biggest challenges both countries face, whether it’s combating COVID, whether it’s building a more inclusive global economy, whether it’s tackling the climate crisis.

To put it another way, the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership, I am convinced, is absolutely crucial, essential, for addressing the problems of the 21st century, and the work of students at institutions like Howard University, is at the heart of that relationship.

I’m looking forward to staying connected in the months to come. And I’d love to hear your thoughts – please share them by writing to me and my team at EmailTeam@State.gov.

(Secretary Anthony Blinken is the 171st Secretary of State and delivered this speech at Howard University where he was joined by India’s Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar April 12, 2022, in a discussion on U.S.-India higher education development)

India-USA Healthcare Partnership with Health Minister Of India Planned During AAPI’s 40th Convention

Coming from India, a nation that has given much to the world, today physicians of Indian origin have become a powerful influence in healthcare across the world. Nowhere is their authority more keenly felt than in the United States, where Indians make up the largest non-Caucasian segment of the American medical community. The overrepresentation of Indians in the field of medicine is striking – in practical terms, one out of seven patients is seen by doctor of in of Indian Heritage in the United States. They provide medical care to the most diverse population base of over 40 million in the US.

Not satisfied with their professional growth and the service they provide to their patients around the world, they are at the forefront, sharing their knowledge and expertise with others, especially those physicians and leaders in the medical field from India.

Since its inception four decades ago, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has grown and is strong today and is the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, representing the interests of over 100,000 physicians of Indian Origin in the US and is the powerful voice here in the US and back home in India.

Their contributions to their motherland and the United States have been enormous. Physicians of Indian origin are well known around the world for their compassion, passion for patient care, medical skills, research, and leadership. They have excelled in their fields of medicine and thus have earned a name for themselves through hard work, commitment, and dedication to their profession and the people they are committed to serving.

Through various projects and programs, AAPI has been leading healthcare initiatives and contributing significantly to offering education, training, and healthcare collaboration with Not-for-profit and government agencies across the nation. The flagship Global Healthcare Summit organized in India every year has been lauded for the tangible contributions AAPI continues to provide impacting almost every field of healthcare in India.

There is no instant solution for India’s myriad problems. But by collaborating with the governments both nationally and at state levels, and working with the government and NGOs, physicians of Indian origin can make a huge difference.

“AAPI in its unique way has made immense contributions to helping our motherland during the crisis and played a significant role in saving lives,” says Anupama Gotimukula, President, of AAPI. “Today, this esteemed panel is convened to nurture, and further, this collaboration between two of the world’s most challenging healthcare systems in the world’s two greatest democracies.”

Realizing this great mission, AAPI is for the first time organizing an In-Person Plenary Session on India-USA Healthcare Partnership With the Health Minister Of India, Mansukh Mandaviya (invited but awaiting confirmation from his office) during the 40th Annual Convention of AAPI on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio, TX, said Dr. Jayesh Shah, Chair, AAPI Convention & Past President, AAPI.

The Panel Discussion is being moderated by Dr. Sweta Bansal and Dr. Rajeev Suri, Co-Chairs of the AAPI Convention Committees. The invited panelists include Dr. Rahul Gupta, US Drug Czar; Honorable Taranjit Sandhu, Ambassador of India; Hon. Aseem R Mahajan, Consul General of India in Houston; Senator John Cornyn;  Rep. Raja Krishnamurthy, US congressman; Rep. Joaquin Castro, US Congressman; Rep. Ami Bera, US Congressman; Dr. Dwarkanath Reddy, GHS 2022 India Chair; Navdeep S. Jaikaria, Ph.D., Founder, Chairman & CEO, SGN Nanopharma Inc., GAPIO President, BAPIO President, and All AAPI Alumni Chapter Presidents.

The role being played by the AAPI Charitable Foundation has been very significant, says, Dr. Surendra Purohit, Chair, AAPI Charitable Foundation. He will provide an update on the “Role of AAPI’s free clinics in India in the last 40 years.”

Recalling the many noble initiatives of AAPI, benefitting India during the Covid Pandemic, Dr. Sujeet Punnam, said, “Diseases do not have borders and collaboration in healthcare globally is necessary for the survival of humanity. It is this reality that the recent pandemic has engraved on our collective conscience.” The panel on “The Covid Crisis – AAPI physicians’ response during the largest global pandemic in over a century” will be led by Drs. Sujit Punnam, Amit Chakraborthy, & Raj Bhayani. Sewa International, which has been collaborating with AAPI in reaching the needed supplies to the neediest in India will be represented by Arun Kankani, President of Sewa International.

Dr. Thakor Patel will provide an update on AAPI Sevak Project, which has been serving millions of people across the many states in India. A new initiative under the current leadership of AAPI has been “Adopt 75 Villages” in India commemorating the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence and providing much-needed Healthcare Screening for chronic diseases, A Rural Health Project involving 75 Villages in several states. Dr. Satheesh Kathula, who has adopted his Village and believes “Over time, an improved village could lead to an improved region, state and country” will present this new program, whose focus is “prevention is better than cure.”

During the most recent Global Healthcare Summit in Hyderabad in 2022, AAPI had organized camps for Screening for Cervical Cancer and Vaccinations to prevent cervical cancer for 100 young women in Hyderabad. Dr. Meetha Singh, who has been part of the program will brief the audience on this new initiative, benefitting women.

TB Eradication Program by a committed team led by Dr. Manoj Jain in collaboration with USAID and now actively functioning in several states in India will be a topic for discussion during the plenary session.

Dr. Gotimukula, President of AAPI urges “AAPI members to consider joining this movement by participating and leading the India-US Healthcare Partnership. AAPI will work with you in coordinating the efforts and through the support system we have in several states, will help you achieve this goal of giving back to our motherland.” For more details, please do visit: www. aapiusa.org

AAHOA Announces 2022 Award Winners

On the third day of the 2022 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show, the association recognized achievement and excellence in the hospitality industry with its annual awards.

Each year, AAHOA honors hoteliers who go above and beyond in service to the hospitality industry.

The annual AAHOA Awards Program recognizes the best of the best, and AAHOA is honored to highlight this year’s award winners’ service and commitment to excellence.

Their hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed, and it is through their leadership, grit, and determination that our industry – and association – continues to thrive.

Winners received their awards on the main stage during the general session on Thursday. The 2022 award winners are:

AAHOA Award of Excellence

This award recognizes a hotelier who has demonstrated strong leadership, has high standards of excellence, and is making a significant contribution to the lodging Industry.

Vimal Patel, President and CEO, QHotels Management, AAHOA Ambassador, Gulf Region Cecil B. Day Community Service Award

Named in honor of Cecil B. Day, the founder of Days Inn known for his commitment to community service, this award recognizes someone who has demonstrated a strong commitment to serving his or her community.

Manhar (MP) Rama, CEO, Sima Hospitality; AAHOA Past Chair (2005-2006)  Outreach Award for Philanthropy . This award is given to an individual deeply involved with helping humanity through philanthropic and charitable activities, domestically or overseas.

Babu Patel, Trustmark Park Hospitality Outstanding Woman Hotelier of the Year Award. This award recognizes a woman hotelier for strong leadership and a commitment to lodging excellence, and for her significant contributions to the industry and to her community.

Pinky P. Bhaidaswala, SSN Hotel Management, LLC Outstanding Young Professional Hoteliers of the Year Award.  This award is for young hoteliers under the age of 30 who have exemplified the spirit, dedication, and achievement of a professional hotelier.

Armaan Patel, AGA Hotels Taran Patel, Managing Principal, A1 Hospitality Group; AAHOA Ambassador, Northwest Region

“This year’s AAHOA award recipients are movers and shakers in their communities and have gone above and beyond to enhance the hotel guest experience,” said AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel. “The hospitality industry has changed over the years, especially throughout the pandemic. Despite that, these individuals have been forward-thinking and proactive in their contributions to hospitality. Congratulations to every award recipient; your commitment to excellence is what sets you apart from the rest.”

“Congratulations to the six award recipients who demonstrated exceptional work, and strived for excellence, through two unprecedented years to ensure our industry thrives and creates generational success for years to come,” said incoming AAHOA Chairman Nishant (Neal) Patel, “We are proud to honor and recognize these individuals for their tremendous impact at AAHOA and in the hospitality industry.”

Indian Nurses Association Of New York Conducts Health Fair In Long Island

Indian Nurses Association of New York (INANY) is conducting a Health Fair in Kennedy Memorial Park, Long Island on April 30th from 10 am to 2 pm in collaboration with Hon. Kevin Thomas, New York State Senator.

The event is supported by Northwell Health System – Stop the Bleed program and Drug addiction prevention team, Molloy College, the non-profit organ procurement organization Live On New York, Stony Brook Mammography, and Marathon Physical Therapy Group.  The address is 335 Greenwich Street, Hempstead, NY 11550.

The goal of this event, which is open to the public “is to promote health and wellness of the society. The main focus is on the underserved and uninsured individuals and families of that area.” said Dr. Anna George, the president of INANY.

The event will facilitate health and wellness education, drug addiction prevention awareness, blood pressure monitoring, diabetes screening, mammography, and training on emergency interventions of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and how to stop bleeding. Marathon physical therapy group will teach body mechanics and simple remedies to alleviate aches and pains.

Masks, hand sanitizers, and at-home-covid test kits provided by the Senator’s office will be distributed free of charge.  There will also many giveaways and refreshments, all free of charge.

For more information:  President – Dr. Anna George (646 732 6143), Secretary – Jessy James (516 603 2024), Treasurer – Lyssy Alex (845 300 6339).

Biden Admn. To Decide On Student Loans In Months

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that President Biden’s use of executive action to cancel some federal student loan debt is “still on the table” and that a “decision” could be made in the coming months.

Psaki made the comments during an appearance on “Pod Save America” after being pressed about past comments by White House chief of staff Ron Klain. “Yes, still on the table, still on the table,” Psaki could be heard saying to apparent cheers from the audience attending the live podcast, which was released by the platform on Friday. She then pointed to the Aug. 31 deadline for when the freeze on student loan debt payments and interest accrual is set to lapse, saying: “We have to then decide whether it’s extended.”

“Nobody’s had to pay a dollar, a cent, anything in student loans since Joe Biden has been president,” Psaki said. “And if that can help people ease the burden of costs in other parts of their lives, that’s an important thing to consider. That’s a big part of the consideration.”

Between now and the end of August, Psaki said the moratorium is “either going to be extended or we’re going to make a decision, as Ron referenced, about canceling student debt.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said President Biden’s use of executive action to cancel some federal student loan debt is “still on the table” and that a “decision” could be made in the coming months.

Between now and the end of August, Psaki said the current moratorium on student loan payments is “either going to be extended or we’re going to make a decision, as [White House chief of staff Ron Klain] referenced, about canceling student debt.”

Biden last extended the pause earlier this month amid mounting pressure from advocates, borrowers and members of his own party to provide further relief.

Biden during his campaign called for federal student loan debt cancellation, and supported forgiveness of at least $10,000 per borrower. However, some top Democrats have pushed for him to go beyond that, canceling up to $50,000 per borrower or wiping out federal student loan debt entirely.

The White House called on Congress to send legislation canceling debt to Biden’s desk, but Democrats are not optimistic about their chances of doing so in the 50-50 Senate given staunch GOP opposition. Sixty votes would be needed to overcome procedural hurdles.

The background: The current pause on federal student loan payments was first implemented under the Trump administration at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. It has since been extended six times.

Biden last extended the pause earlier this month amid mounting pressure from advocates, borrowers and members of his own party to provide further relief.

Indian American Named Bishop Of Columbus, OH

An Indian-American priest, Rev. Earl Kenneth Fernandes, 49, will have the distinction of becoming the first Indian-American bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, after he was named bishop-elect of Columbus, Ohio. He will also be the first person of color to serve as the bishop of the Diocese of Columbus, as well the youngest diocesan bishop in the United States.

The announcement on April 2, 2022, was made by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Papal Nuncio to the United States. The new Bishop will be consecrated and installed as the 13th bishop of Columbus (Ohio) on May 31, 2022. Rev. Fernandes has roots in Mangalore, Goa, and Mumbai.

Born on September 21, 1972, in Toledo in Ohio to Sidney Oswald Fernandes and Thelma Fernandes nee’ Noronha, who migrated to the USA from the western Indian metropolis of  Bombay (now Mumbai) in the early 1970s. Fr Earl has four brothers: Karl, Trevor (who is a Catholic deacon), Ashley, and Eustace – Trevor is a Magistrate and others are medical doctors.

Rev. Fernandes obtained his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Toledo in 1994 and went on to study physiology at the University of Salford. It was in his second year of medical studies at the University of Cincinnati that he felt the call of the Lord to serve Him. The bishop-elect, did his priestly formation at Mount Saint Mary’s of the West in Cincinnati and bagged a master’s in Theology in 2002. He attributes his deep faith and vocation to the exemplary prayer life of his mother, a teacher, and his father, a physician.

Rev. Fernandes was ordained a priest on May 18, 2002, for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and two years later he went to Rome to earn a licentiate and doctoral degree in moral theology from the Alphonsian Academy.  Fr Earl served as vicar of Holy Angels parish and was a religious teacher at Lehman Catholic High School from 2002 to 2004.

He has also served as the dean and assistant professor of moral theology at Mount Saint Mary’s of the West seminary from 2008 to 2016. He served as a member of the executive committee for the National Association of Catholic Theological Schools and was appointed a Missionary of Mercy during the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy from 2015 to 2016. He served on the staff of the nunciature for three and a half years.

A board of trustees member of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Fr Earl is fluent in Spanish, Italian and French apart from having a reading knowledge of Latin – both his parents have an old Konkani Catholic background.

The diocese, spread across 11,310 square miles in the state of Ohio, has 207,041 Catholics out of a population of 2,828,514.  He will be the first Indian-American bishop of the Latin Church in the United States, and will be the first person of color to serve as the Bishop of the Diocese of Columbus, aged 49 years, he is the youngest diocesan Bishop in the United States, upon ordination.

In his first public speech Bishop-elect Rev, Fernandes said,  “This America is the land of opportunity, there is a great deal of pride (in being the first Indian-American bishop).”

The fourth of five sons born to Indian immigrants in Toledo, young Earnest remembers celebrating the U.S. bicentennial on July 4, 1976, holding signs with his four brothers. His father, who memorized the Constitution before taking his citizenship test, had fashioned together his own version of the Liberty Bell. Rev Fernandes is a self-described “young and happy priest”.

News of Fernandes’ appointment as a Bishop comes months after Pope Francis reassigned former Columbus Bishop Robert Brennan to lead the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Pope Francis Makes Plea For Ukraine Peace, Cites Nuclear Risk

On what is supposed to be Christianity’s most joyful day, Pope Francis made an anguished Easter Sunday plea for peace in the “senseless” war in Ukraine and in other armed conflicts raging in the world, and voiced worry about the risk of nuclear warfare.

“May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of this cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged,” Francis said, speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Square.

The pontiff had just finished celebrating Easter Mass in the square packed by faithful for the holiday for the first time since the pandemic began in early 2020. Applause erupted from many of the crowd, estimated by the Vatican to number 100,000 in the square and on a nearby avenue, when he mentioned Ukraine.

“Please, please, let us not get used to war,″ Francis pleaded, after denouncing ”the flexing of muscles while people are suffering.” Yet again, the pontiff didn’t cite Russian President Vladimir Putin for the decision to launch the invasion and attacks against Ukraine on Feb. 24.

People’s hearts are filled with “fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away in order to be safe from bombing,” the pontiff said.

“Let us all commit ourselves to imploring peace, from our balconies and in our streets,″ Francis said. ”May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace.”

In a clear reference to the threat of nuclear warfare, Francis quoted from a noted declaration of 1955: “‘Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?’”

He was quoting from a manifesto written by philosopher Bertrand Russell and physicist Albert Einstein. The manifesto’s text, sounding a grim warning against the consequences of nuclear warfare, was issued a few months after Einstein died.

Meanwhile, in Britain, the leader of the Anglican church, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, called for Russia to declare a cease-fire and withdraw from Ukraine.

Noting that in the Eastern Orthodox church followed by many in Russia and Ukraine Sunday marks the start of Holy Week — with Easter coming on April 24 — Welby exhorted Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and commit to talks.

Francis also drew attention to other wars in the speech known by its Latin name “Urbi et Orbi” — to the city and to the world.

“May the conflict in Europe also make us more concerned about other situations of conflict, suffering and sorrow, situations that affect all too many areas of our world, situations that we cannot overlook and do not want to forget,″ Francis said.

Two days after Palestinians and Israeli police clashed in Jerusalem, Francis prayed that “Israelis, Palestinians and all the inhabitants of the Holy City, together with pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, of living in brotherhood and of accessing Holy Places” in reciprocal respect.

He called for peace and reconciliation for the peoples of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Francis spoke plaintively about Yemen, “which suffers from a conflict forgotten by all, with continuous victims.” He expressed hope that a recent truce would restore hope to that country’s people.

He also prayed that God grant “reconciliation for Myanmar, where a dramatic scenario of hatred and violence persists,” and for Afghanistan, which is gripped by a humanitarian crisis, including food shortages.

Francis denounced the exploitation of the African continent and “terrorist attacks — particularly in the Sahel region,” as well as the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia and violence in Congo.

In Latin America, many have seen their plight worsen during the coronavirus pandemic, aggravating social problems stemming from corruption, violence and drug trafficking, the pontiff said.

But Francis found hope in the “open doors of all those families and communities that are welcoming migrants and refugees throughout Europe,″ referring to the some 10 million people who have either fled Ukraine or are internally displaced by the war.

At the Polish border station of Medyka, a paramedic from Warsaw helped set out a traditional Easter breakfast with ham, cheese and Easter cakes for some of the latest refugees from Ukraine, the majority of whom have streamed into neighboring Poland.

“They lost their homes. They are seeking refuge in our country,” said volunteer Agnieszka Kuszaj. She hoped that the meal would help them “forget for a moment about all the terrible things” that have happened.

Maria Dontsova, 31, who is from Kharviv, the heavily bombed city in eastern Ukraine said: “I wish all families peace who are suffering in Ukraine at this great holiday Easter.” Speaking in English, she expressed hope that war will end “as soon as possible, and people stop suffering, and we can prevent the war (from) spreading to Europe”

Earlier, the pontiff, who has a knee ligament problem, limped badly as he made his way to an altar set up in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. After Easter morning Mass, Francis boarded the white popemobile for a whirl through the square among the cheering ranks of the crowd.

In Spain, believers and secular enthusiasts flocked back in large numbers to Holy Week processions this week for the first time since the start of the pandemic after most health restrictions were lifted.

300 Languages Spoken Along This New York City Street

Queens Borough in New York City is known as “The World’s Borough” for a reason: what happens on Roosevelt Avenue has ripple effects near and far.

In this vibrant borough there is a street called Roosevelt Avenue that cuts a cross-section through some of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods on Earth. Spanish, Bengali, Punjabi, Mixtec, Seke, and Kuranko are among the hundreds of languages spoken here. Nepalese dumplings and Korean noodles, Mexican tortas and Colombian empanadas, Thai curries and spicy South Indian vindaloos are just some of the many food choices.

Passing from one block to the next—through neighborhoods including Elmhurst, Corona, and Jackson Heights—can feel like crossing continents. Plazas and parks are crowded with vendors selling tamales, atole, and large-kernel corn. Tibetan Buddhists, fluent in the Indigenous languages of the Himalayas, walk to worship in their red-and-orange robes. Bangladeshi curbside markets teem with overflowing crates of ginger, garlic and humongous jackfruits, picked out by people wearing saris and shalwar kameez.

Growing up in New York, my own family would come to Queens to watch World Cup matches in South American cafés, just as our abuelos would visit their trusted Argentine butcher for fresh cuts of meat, and our Bukharan Jewish neighbors would come to pray, and our Indian family friends would come shopping for amulets and syrup-drizzled sweets for celebrations, all within this same 10-square-mile stretch of city.

Roosevelt Avenue is a pulsing artery of commerce and life. The road itself is chaotic, dark, and loud. You know you’re on Roosevelt because the elevated 7 train runs overhead, the tracks draping it in slitted shadows, and when the 7 train thunders past, for a moment, the frenzied thoroughfare is consumed: older women look up from their pushcarts; chatting friends fall silent mid-speak; and children cover their ears.

Above the storefronts, at the level of the train, are smaller brick offices with signs that reveal the more pressing needs of such a migrant-rich community: “Sherpa Employment Agency,” “Construction Safety Training,” “Irma Travel: Send Money and Shipments to Lima and Provinces.” Taped to the metal pilings and lampposts are hand-written listings with tear-off phone numbers, mainly in Spanish, advertising “rooms for rent,” “employment needed,” and “help wanted.”

Road signs welcome drivers entering Queens to “The World’s Borough.” But there is another phrase that might be more apt: “Queens, Center of the World.” That’s because what happens on these streets has ripple effects near and far, sometimes as far as on the other side of the globe—and what happens on the other side of the globe also certainly influences who ends up here. Perhaps at no other point has this been more urgently felt than during the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the spring of 2020, the virus ravaged this part of the city. Most people who live here are essential workers who cannot work from home—restaurant cooks, delivery workers, cab drivers, construction builders—and many live in overcrowded quarters, so the disease spread precipitously. Elmhurst Hospital, which serves this community, was declared the “epicenter of the epicenter” for the initial outbreak in the U.S.

In New York, such a rapid and large-scale loss of life meant that the city’s engine sputtered to an even more devastating halt; in other places, like Mexico and Ecuador, Bangladesh and Nepal, it meant that many families could no longer rely on support from relatives in Queens who were suddenly out of work, or worse. Joblessness and hunger skyrocketed, residents just barely getting by. And yet only for a very short while did walking Roosevelt and its surrounding streets have the same eerie, empty feel as in the rest of the city. Its communities and micro-economies, heavily reliant on in-person interactions, cannot afford to stay still.

“The people who come over, they come to help their family,” says Sanwar Shamal, of Bengali Money Transfer in Jackson Heights.

Snippets of South Asia

Around the 74th Street subway station, the neighborhood is heavily South Asian—mostly people of Bangladeshi, Indian, and Nepalese origin. Bengali-speaking men wearing skullcaps sell plush prayer rugs, headscarves, and gold-plated Islamic iconography from milk crates on the sidewalks, cigarette smoke pouring out of their mouths as they talk. Mannequins showcase bright-colored salwars and chaniya cholis through tall glass windows, and restaurants serve curries with rice and water in silver bowls and cold metal cups.

Seemingly everywhere in Roosevelt’s path, there is a heightened sense of the “old country”—of memories that haven’t faded over long stretches of distance and time. You feel it in the money-transfer and international courier stores along Diversity Plaza, where people line up patiently to send remittances and packages to relatives back home, relatives they haven’t seen in years and might not ever see again. You feel it on the weekends, when families drive in from all over to shop for groceries at Patel Brothers, or to eat at Samudra or Dera or the famous Jackson Diner. You feel it at the sweet shops, where grandfathers wearing tweed suits and large wristwatches take their smiling grandchildren for treats.

And you certainly feel it when you step into the United Sherpa Association, a former Lutheran Church that in 1996 was converted into a Tibetan Buddhist temple and community center now serving more than 12,000 Himalayan Sherpas, the largest population living outside Nepal. People come here to pray and to drink salty yak-butter tea poured from tall thermoses into bowls of blue-and-white china. In pre-pandemic times—according to Tshering Sherpa, the president of the association—nearly 100 people would fill two floors in this temple to worship. “You could hear the chanting from Broadway,” she says, beaming.

“Our seniors established this United Sherpa Association,” says Temba Sherpa, the group’s vice president, “to protect and maintain our identity.” The Sherpa are a Tibetan ethnic group who for hundreds of years have made their livelihoods in the Himalayas, raising yaks and high-altitude crops in the remote mountains. Practically no one knows the Himalayas better than the Sherpa, and in recent years they’ve also become synonymous with their work as climbing guides and porters on Mount Everest.

“We got our identity and economic benefit from mountaineering,” says Ang Tshering Sherpa, himself a former trekking guide. “But there’s not much of an alternative if you aren’t educated.”

Climbing is often a perilous endeavor for the Sherpa, especially with little in the way of formalized protections from the turbulent Nepalese government. “Going to the mountains, it’s like going to war,” Ang Tshering says. “You don’t know if you’ll come back.” Many hundreds of Sherpa people have died or been seriously disabled on climbs over the years. “Once a Sherpa gets in a kind of accident, the family gets very little, they don’t have a safety net,” Ang Tshering adds.

Since the 1990s, and especially after major climbing disasters on Everest, Sherpa have left Nepal in large numbers. Many have come to the area around Roosevelt Avenue, where they often work as taxi drivers, or restaurant cooks and supermarket employees. The United Sherpa Association is a central meeting point of worship and community—where people chant and pray, gather for meals of dhal and root-vegetable stews, and share opportunities for work or study.

There are also classes to teach the Sherpa language and traditions to new generations born in the U.S. Shortly after the pandemic began, the association opened a food pantry—available not only to Sherpas but to anyone—and every Tuesday since then, people have lined up in need. And the Sherpas haven’t stopped advocating for their family members back in Nepal, either: for better educational and economic opportunities, and for improved safety infrastructure for climbing guides and porters, especially as recent tourism downturns and pandemic outbreaks have further devastated the country.

“Most of the Sherpa over here, their families are still in Nepal,” says Pasang Sherpa, president of the US-Nepal Climbers Association, a Queens-based nonprofit. “We know exactly who needs help.”

‘La Roosevelt’

Down the road, the sound of spoken Spanish envelops either side of what’s known as ‘La Roosevelt.’  In Jackson Heights there is a block nicknamed ‘Calle Colombia’ (Colombia Street)—where vendors slice cold coconuts with machetes, and tall stalks of sugarcane disappear into juicers for the sweet drink called guarapo. Further east are standing-room-only taquerias, stores bursting with knock-off soccer jerseys, and electronics dealers and barber shops with hawkers outside telling passersby to come in, just for a minute, just to take a look.

On 80th Street, just south of Roosevelt in Elmhurst, Barco de Papel (Paper Boat) stands as the sole Spanish-language bookstore left in New York City. One of the owners is an older Cuban man named Ramón Caraballo who can usually be found there smoking a cigar. He speaks softly and sparingly. “I am just a man who opens up a bookstore in the morning and closes it at night,” Caraballo said when he first introduced himself. “That is all.”

The building is small, just one room, but it is filled from floor to ceiling with a large selection of some of Latin America’s finest writers—Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende—as well as lesser-known staff favorites. It is so stuffed with books only its keepers know where anything is to be found.

Caraballo is one of those keepers. Before he co-founded Barco de Papel in 2003, he sold books from a street cart around the corner. “All my life I’ve dedicated myself to literature,” he says. When he opened the nonprofit store—around the same time that Amazon and rising rents began to spell the demise of independent bookstores, especially Spanish-language ones, across the U.S.—it quickly became a community treasure.

Many customers come to Barco de Papel hoping to rebuild the libraries they left behind when they migrated. “They bring their kids, too,” says Paula Ortiz, a high school teacher from Colombia who co-founded the store. “They can’t take them to their countries, so they bring them here.” Others will gather for tertulias—discussions about literature and current events—and live readings.

But Barco de Papel has also become a hub for information. Since the pandemic, many customers leave with information on vaccines, testing, or treatment. New migrants seek out guidance on how to start a small business or learn English. Children whose parents can’t afford to buy another book benefit from book exchanges.

“We have to constantly change with the community, without losing our essence,” Ortiz says. “We owe ourselves to them.”

Corona Plaza

One afternoon in Barco de Papel, I found Caraballo and two helpers unwrapping a large painting that they were planning to put up in a nearby underpass, part of a public art installation in homage to the neighborhood. This one was a bright-colored portrait of a Latina street vendor flanked by a food truck and some ears of large-kernel corn.

Street vending has long been woven into the fabric of Queens, where on the sidewalks you can buy just about anything. In largely Chinese and Korean neighborhoods like Flushing, vendors pull steaming dumplings and salted duck eggs out of steel tubs; plastic bins offer spiced watermelon seeds, eyebrow beans, and goji berry soup. Along Roosevelt, Bangladeshis and Afghans peddling religious items cross paths with Spanish-speaking vendors who sell food and drink, small metal lockets and neon construction vests, disposable masks, rat poison, smartphone cases, and flowered hanging plants.

Some have been selling for years. Many others have only recently begun, after losing their jobs because of the pandemic-induced economic crisis. Pop-up stands of folding tables and tents have appeared (and expanded) on much-transited corners. People walk past with strollers, pulling back the top to reveal not children but candies, popsicles, and sandwiches. Women weave their way through traffic carrying months-old babies in slings on their backs, selling sliced fruit to drivers at red lights.

“Vending has always been big along Roosevelt, especially in Jackson Heights and Corona, but even more so now, because so many people have lost their income, are facing eviction, and have no safety net,” says Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, deputy director of The Street Vendor Project, a nonprofit that works with street-sellers across New York City. “Every type of relief that came out during the pandemic excluded undocumented folks. And that hit the area so especially hard.”

The Street Vendor Project estimates that during the pandemic, the number of vendors in Corona Plaza, along Roosevelt Avenue at 103rd Street, rose nearly fourfold, from 20-30 people to more than 100. They come prepared for the elements—with tents, tarps, umbrellas and plastic garbage bags—and work through the rain, snow, sun, and cold.

“We used to live in the mountains, my family,” says María Lucrecia Armira, 44, who migrated to Queens in 2019 from a small village in the department of Suchitepéquez, Guatemala. She has had to adjust to spending nearly every waking hour in the smoky heat of a grill stand, selling meat skewers on the loudest corner of the Plaza. Armira arrived two years ago with her 14-year-old son, who enrolled in the local public school; when the pandemic began a short time later, he dropped out and started working full-time selling raspados (shaved ice) and slushies.

“On the one hand I was nervous about the virus,” Armira says. “On the other hand, we were locked down and couldn’t work.” Sharing a single bedroom with her son in an apartment filled with other families, she tries to send $500 per month—or whatever she can—to her two other children, whom she had to leave behind in Guatemala. “Many people count on what we send from here.”

Street vendors now face opposition from brick-and-mortar business owners frustrated with the sudden boom in new and seemingly unlimited competition. In recent months, the city has stepped up its enforcement of street-vending laws, ticketing and removing those without a permit. There are more than 20,000 vendors estimated to be working in the city, and just a small fraction of permits, leading to price-gauging, according to labor activists.

One afternoon on Corona Plaza, the presence of two New York City inspectors sent many vendors scurrying. There were fewer produce-sellers on the sidewalk, food trucks were shuttered, and shopping carts stood empty, piled atop each other beneath the train tracks.

Ana Maldonado stood nervously in the shadows—across the street from her usual spot on the plaza, where for more than 15 years she’s sold tamales and rice pudding and syrupy Mexican-style hot chocolate from a cart of metal vats and orange Gatorade thermoses.

“My customers know me, they know where to find me,” she says, looking out for inspectors from the stairs to the train. The inspectors had warned her to leave, or risk an expensive fine and all of her merchandise being tossed to the trash. “They’re in the middle of the plaza. If they catch me, I’m finished.”

Originally from a small mountain town in Guerrero, Mexico—where, in the green hills, steam rises from rivers swelled with rain—now she wakes up each morning at 4 a.m. and prepares the day’s food for sale on Roosevelt, not returning home until she’s sold everything. Her husband spent 28 days in the hospital with COVID-19 at the start of 2020 and nearly died; he has been unemployed since. “All that my family has, everything comes from this,” Maldonado says. “I work hard to feed them, whatever it takes.”

Queens Globe

As Roosevelt Avenue nears the end of its eastward course, it’s fitting that it passes by the famous Unisphere, the Queens Globe built for the 1964 World’s Fair, that has since become a symbol of this area’s epic cultural diversity. Here in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the hustling chaos of Roosevelt Avenue abates, if only for a moment, and the world’s borough comes outside to decompress.

In springtime, families take pictures at golden hour in their best sunshine saris, their favorite skirts and collared shirts in front of an explosion of color: the cornelian cherries, the flowering pears, the forsythia and the redbuds in full bloom. Two years after the onset of the pandemic, despite all the challenges the coronavirus has left behind, there are signs of renewal, too—of soccer games returning to dusty fields with goals carried on backs and bicycles; of misting fountains, and the smell of new grass; of the sound of Mister Softee trucks offering ice cream to children with outstretched arms.

I have often thought about what it means to be American on my walks along Roosevelt—what it means to be the product of so many different stories and struggles and heritages that have led us to one singular, raucous mix of a place. In this country that so deeply strives for assimilation, there is often pressure to distill identities, to make them more palatable for others looking on.

But what is both so special and so hard about Queens is that assimilation does not come easy.

I think about this with every scene that crosses my gaze, with every encounter and conversation—whether in a bookstore or a temple, on the 7 train or on a soccer field in the park. I think about the many definitions of “American” when my own family, a blend of cultures shaped by migrations forced and voluntary, ventures out to this neighborhood for tastes of a past that continues to mark our future here. As parents look for fair and just opportunities to raise their children in the U.S., to learn English, to find work, and to support their families abroad, that sense of the ‘old country’ is unlikely to fade from Roosevelt Avenue, so long as people keep migrating to neighborhoods like this one.

I thought about that when I first met Maldonado, the undocumented street vendor who left Mexico two decades ago and cannot return without risk of not being able to get back into the U.S. I told her that I’d recently been there and asked her what part of the country she was from. Instead of answering right away she touched my wrist with her hands and looked into my eyes. “Cómo está?” she asked about her homeland. “How is it?”

FDA Grants Emergency Use Authorization To COVID-19 Breathalyzer Test

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Thursday that it had authorized the first test to detect COVID-19 through breath for emergency use.

The InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer is able to identify five volatile organic compounds tied to the coronavirus in a person’s breath by using a technique known as gas chromatography gas mass-spectrometry, delivering results in less than three minutes, according to the FDA.

The agency said that in a study of 2,409 people, which included both people with and without symptoms, the test had a 99.3 percent specificity rate, which measures the percent of correctly identified negative test samples.

The FDA also noted that the InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer had a 91.2 percent sensitivity rate, which measures the percent of correctly identified positive test samples.

Still, the health agency said that a molecular test should be used to confirm positive test results returned by the COVID-19 breath test.

“Today’s authorization is yet another example of the rapid innovation occurring with diagnostic tests for COVID-19,” Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement.

Bloomberg (4/14, Muller) reports, “A COVID-19 breathalyzer test with the ability to provide diagnostic results in three minutes has won emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency announced Thursday.” The test made by InspectIR Systems “is authorized for those 18 and older and in settings where samples are both collected and analyzed, such as doctor’s offices, hospitals or mobile testing sites.” The FDA “said the test was validated in a study of 2,409 people, where it correctly identified 91.2% of positive samples and 99.3% of negative samples.”

Travel Mask Mandate Suspended After Judge Strikes It Down

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is no longer enforcing the federal government’s mask mandate for travel after a federal judge in Florida struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) directive, media reports here suggested.  

“The agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps,” a Biden administration official said. “In the meantime, today’s court decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time.” 

“Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time,” the official said.  

The Biden administration is still encouraging travelers to wear masks on public transit in order to protect against COVID-19 in the wake of Monday’s ruling. But those who do not wear face coverings on planes and other modes of public transportation will not face consequences.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier Monday that the ruling was “disappointing” and that the administration was reviewing the decision.  

The Justice Department would make any decision on litigation, she said. The administration could choose to appeal the ruling.

Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an appointee of former President Trump, voided the CDC’s mandate earlier on Monday, writing that the agency exceeded its statutory authority with the order requiring mask use on planes, trains and other forms of public transit.  

The ruling came just days after the CDC extended the mandate for 15 days through May 3. In extending the mandate, the agency said it was reviewing the impact of a recent rise in COVID-19 cases.  

World Bank Cuts India, South Asia Growth Forecast On Ukraine Crisis

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the inauguration of the Samsung Electronics smartphone manufacturing facility in Noida, India, July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI – The World Bank cut its economic growth forecast for India and the whole South Asian region on Wednesday, citing worsening supply bottlenecks and rising inflation risks caused by the Ukraine crisis.

The international lender lowered its growth estimate for India, the region’s largest economy, to 8% from 8.7% for the current fiscal year to March, 2023 and cut by a full percentage point the growth outlook for South Asia, excluding Afghanistan, to 6.6%.

In India, household consumption will be constrained by the incomplete recovery of the labour market from the pandemic and inflationary pressures, the bank said.

“High oil and food prices caused by the war in Ukraine will have a strong negative impact on peoples’ real incomes,” Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Vice President for South Asia, said in a statement.

The World Bank raised its growth forecast for Pakistan, the region’s second-largest economy, for the current year ending in June, to 4.3% from 3.4% and kept next year’s growth outlook unchanged at 4%.

The region’s dependence on energy imports meant high crude prices forced its economies to pivot their monetary policies to focus on inflation rather than reviving economic growth after nearly two years of pandemic restrictions.

The World Bank slashed this year’s growth forecast for Maldives to 7.6% from 11%, citing its large imports of fossil fuels and a slump in tourism arrivals from Russia and Ukraine.

It raised crisis-hit Sri Lanka’s 2022 growth forecast to 2.4% from 2.1% but warned the island’s outlook was highly uncertain due to fiscal and external imbalances.

Sri Lanka’s central bank said on Tuesday it had become “challenging and impossible” to repay external debt, as it tries to use its dwindling foreign exchange reserves to import essentials like fuel.

U.S. Monitoring Rise In Rights Abuses In India

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was monitoring what he described as a rise in human rights abuses in India by some officials, in a rare direct rebuke by Washington of the Asian nation’s rights record.

“We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values (of human rights) and to that end, we are monitoring some recent concerning developments in India including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials,” Blinken said on Monday in a joint press briefing with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.

Blinken did not elaborate. Singh and Jaishankar, who spoke after Blinken at the briefing, did not comment on the human rights issue. Blinken’s remarks came days after U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar questioned the alleged reluctance of the U.S. government to criticize Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on human rights.

“What does Modi need to do to India’s Muslim population before we will stop considering them a partner in peace?” Omar, who belongs to President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, said last week.

Modi’s critics say his Hindu nationalist ruling party has fostered religious polarization since coming to power in 2014. Since Modi came to power, right-wing Hindu groups have launched attacks on minorities claiming they are trying to prevent religious conversions. Several Indian states have passed or are considering anti-conversion laws that challenge the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief.

In 2019, the government passed a citizenship law that critics said undermined India’s secular constitution by excluding Muslim migrants from neighboring countries. The law was meant to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015.

In the same year, soon after his 2019 re-election win, Modi’s government revoked the special status of Kashmir in a bid to fully integrate the Muslim-majority region with the rest of the country. To keep a lid on protests, the administration detained many Kashmir political leaders and sent many more paramilitary police and soldiers to the Himalayan region also claimed by Pakistan.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently banned wearing the hijab in classrooms in Karnataka state. Hardline Hindu groups later demanded such restrictions in more Indian states.

Recession Fears Rise As Fed Fights Inflation

As Americans feel the squeeze of rising inflation, fears are growing that a recession is around the corner.  The U.S. economy is running hot as a record stretch of job growth, steady consumer demand and intense demand for labor has helped fuel the highest inflation rate in 40 years.

While the economy has recovered far quicker than many economists expected, the speed of the rebound is putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to take more significant action to help slow price growth.

Wendy Edelberg, director of The Hamilton Project and a senior economic studies fellow at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, said the economy has been “revving” given the amount of fiscal stimulus that has been poured into the system to keep it afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

But in order to combat the skyrocketing inflation, Edelberg and other economists say a slowdown is vital.

“So, now the question is, how smoothly does that slowdown happen?” Edelberg said. “And slowdowns can be painful. So, there’s absolutely a risk of a recession.”

The Fed’s primary tool for keeping prices stable and the job market strong is adjusting the federal funds rate. When the Fed raises or cuts its baseline interest rate range, borrowing costs for home loans, credit cards and other lending products typically move in the same direction.

When interest rates rise, consumer and business spending tends to decrease as the costs of borrowing money increase. Higher interest rates also incentivize saving, which means less immediate spending in the economy.

After slashing rates to near-zero levels amid the onset of the pandemic, the Fed in March launched a series of interest rate hikes meant to bring down soaring inflation.

The Fed hopes higher borrowing costs will slow down the economy enough to curb price growth without halting the recovery.

“Our goal is to restore price stability while fostering another long expansion and sustaining a strong labor market,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said last month, adding the bank is aiming for the economy to achieve a “soft landing, with inflation coming down and unemployment holding steady.”

Powell, other Fed officials and some economists believe the U.S. economy is strong enough to withstand rising interest rates without falling into recession or losing jobs. The U.S. gained nearly 1.7 million jobs over the first three months of the year, consumer spending has remained strong and there are roughly two open jobs for every unemployed jobseeker.

Those confident in the Fed’s handle on inflation believe the bank can stanch inflation while only reducing job openings and the intense need for workers, rather than slowing the economy into layoffs.

Even so, the Fed is facing serious turbulence as it attempts to steer the recovery to a sustainable pace.  The war in Ukraine, the sanctions imposed on Russia and Moscow’s response has fueled rapid price increases for oil, gasoline, food, key minerals and other essential consumer goods already hit by inflation. COVID-19 shutdowns in China have also jammed up supply chains, which were already overwhelmed by consumer demand.

Dana M. Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board, said Fed rate hikes could help reduce consumer demand for goods and services, pent-up savings, rising wages and housing market heat, but can’t do anything about supply chain dysfunction, COVID-19 shutdowns and the war.

“The supply side drivers of inflation, which includes the supply chain disruptions and also higher global commodity prices, the Fed can do very little about. Nonetheless, the Fed is going to be raising interest rates,” Peterson said during a Thursday briefing with reporters.

“I don’t know how confident the Fed is about anything, but certainly I think they’ve abandoned expectations that there’s going to be kind of a natural solution to inflation.”

Economists warn more must be done to tighten monetary policy to cool the economy, which could still mean pain in the months ahead for more Americans’ finances.

“As you slow the economy down, inflation will fall,” Ray Fair, an economics professor at Yale University, said, adding that’s how the Fed can help lower inflation. “But the cost of that, of course, is slower output growth and higher unemployment.”

And Fair, director emeritus at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), said his own research suggests the Fed has “got to do quite a bit” of intervention to slow the economy.

“They’ve got to raise the interest rate, for example, more than just two percentage points, if they expect to get much lowering of inflation,” Fair said. The Fed funds rate is currently at a range of 0.25 to 0.5 percent and bank officials expect to raise it to roughly 2 percent by the end of the year.

Some economists fear inflation may be rising too quickly for the Fed to curb without raising rates so high, it halts economic growth.

In March, consumer prices shot up 1.2 percent, according to data released by the Labor Department this week. The data also found those prices had risen to 8.5 percent in the past year alone, marking the highest yearly increase in roughly four decades.

Americans saw prices go up in a variety of areas, ranging from food to gasoline and transportation, as the Ukraine-Russian war helped exacerbate the nation’s ongoing inflation problem.

Fair, whose bureau is often looked to for measuring recessions, said the NBER’s defines such an event as roughly, but not completely, “two successive quarters of negative real growth in GDP.”

Recent weeks have seen reports of institutions like Bank of America warning of recession shocks. A recent survey by The Wall Street Journal found more economists are also changing their tune on chances of a recession, finding forecasters “on average put the probability of the economy being in recession sometime in the next 12 months at 28 percent,” compared to 18 percent in January.

In an interview, Desmond Lachman, a senior fellow for the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said he feels a recession is likely.

“In order for [the Fed] to get the inflation out of the system, they’re going to have to tighten policy and that’s going to produce a recession,” Lachman said.

But others believe the Fed may have to contend that higher inflation could be around for a little while longer, as the central bank proceeds in slowing down the economy.

“They’re also going to have to recognize that they may not get back to a 3 percent or 2 percent (annual inflation) target anytime soon,” Peterson said, arguing such an attempt “would essentially drive the US economy into recession.”

Mortgage Rates Hit 5 Percent, Ushering In New Economic Uncertainty

Mortgage rates swelled above 5 percent for the first time in more than a decade — an unexpectedly rapid ascent that has begun to temper the U.S. housing boom and could usher new uncertainty into an economy dogged by soaring inflation.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the most popular home loan product, hit the threshold just five weeks after surpassing 4 percent, according to Freddie Mac data released Thursday. The average has not been this high since February 2011.

The run-up comes as the Federal Reserve has launched a major initiative to rein in the highest inflation in 40 years. Fed officials are betting that higher interest rates will slash inflation and recalibrate the job market. But their plan also rests on the assumption that higher rates will cool demand for housing, especially while homes themselves are in such short supply.

Low rates fueled the revival of the U.S. housing market after the Great Recession and have helped drive home prices to record levels. But after two years of hovering at historical lows, rates have been on a tear: In January, the 30-year fixed average was 3.22 percent. It was 3.04 percent a year ago. And while mortgage rates had been expected to rise, they’ve done so more quickly than many economists predicted.

“I’m not surprised that rates have hit 5 percent, but I am surprised that everyone else is surprised,” Curtis Wood, founder and chief executive of Bee, a mobile mortgage app, said via email. “If you look at historical action by the Fed in a high-rate environment and compare that to what the Fed is doing today, the Fed is underreacting to the reality of inflation in the economy.

“I’m surprised that rates aren’t at 6 percent right now,” he added, “and wouldn’t be shocked if they’re at 7 percent by end of year.”

Consumers have been absorbing higher prices in nearly every facet of their lives, with essentials such as food and gasoline spiking 8.8 percent and 48 percent, respectively, compared with last year. But higher mortgage rates can significantly limit what they can buy, or price them out altogether.

Several months ago, a home buyer would be looking to pay $1,347 a month on a $300,000 loan at 3.5 percent interest. But if the buyer had waited until this week, the same loan at 5 percent would tack on $263, bringing the monthly payment to $1,610.

The Federal Reserve’s efforts to tame inflation are driving the rise in rates. Although the Fed does not set mortgage rates, it does influence them. The central bank took its first steps toward bringing down inflation in March when it raised its benchmark rate for the first time since 2018. In addition to the federal funds rate hike, the Fed is soon to begin the process of reducing its balance sheet.

The Federal Reserve holds about $2.74 trillion in mortgage-backed securities. It indicated it will reveal its plans for reducing its holdings at its May meeting. The more aggressively the Fed sells those bonds, the faster mortgage rates are likely to rise.

The cost of housing doesn’t only weigh on buyers and sellers. It also has proved to be a major complication for the economic recovery, and potentially jeopardizes policymakers’ ability to rein in soaring inflation.

Inflation is rising at the fastest pace in 40 years, with prices climbing 8.5 percent in March compared with the year before. Shelter is a major part — roughly one third — of the basket of goods and services used to calculate inflation, or what’s known as the consumer price index. That means that if housing costs don’t meaningfully turn around soon, it will be that much harder for overall inflation to simmer down to more normal levels.

Shelter costs also stand apart from other categories, such as gas, food or plane tickets, that may be more susceptible to forces like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, supply chain disruptions or a war. (Courtesy: https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/mortgage-rates-hit-5-percent-ushering-in-new-economic-uncertainty/ar-AAWe1XQ)

Inflation Has Risen Around The World, But The U.S. Has Seen One Of The Biggest Increases

Americans who have been to the grocery store lately or started their holiday shopping may have noticed that consumer prices have spiked. The annual rate of inflation in the United States hit 6.2% in October 2021, the highest in more than three decades, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Other inflation metrics also have shown significant increases in recent months, though not to the same extent as the CPI.

Understanding why the rate of inflation has risen so quickly could help clarify how long the surge might last – and what, if anything, policymakers should do about it. The recent acceleration in the rate of inflation appears to be fundamentally different from other inflationary periods that were more closely tied to the regular business cycle. Explanations for the current phenomenon proffered to date include continuing disruptions in global supply chains amid the coronavirus pandemic; turmoil in the labor markets; the fact that today’s prices are being measured against prices during last year’s COVID-19-induced shutdowns; and strong consumer demand after local economies were reopened.

How we did this

At least one thing is clear: A resurgent inflation rate is by no means solely a U.S. concern. A Pew Research Center analysis of data from 46 nations finds that the third-quarter 2021 inflation rate was higher in most of them (39) than in the pre-pandemic third quarter of 2019. In 16 of these countries, including the U.S., the inflation rate was more than 2 percentage points higher last quarter than in the same period of 2019. (For this analysis, we used data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of mostly highly developed, democratic countries. The data covers the 38 OECD member nations, plus eight other economically significant countries.)

At 5.3%, the U.S. had the eighth-highest annual inflation rate in the third quarter of 2021 among the 46 countries examined, narrowly edging out Poland. The increase in the U.S. inflation rate – 3.58 percentage points between the third quarter of 2019 and the third quarter of 2021 – was the third highest in the study group, behind only Brazil and Turkey, both of which have substantially higher inflation rates in general than the U.S. does.

Regardless of the absolute level of inflation in each country, many show variations on the same pattern: relatively low inflation before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the first quarter of 2020; flat or falling inflation for the rest of that year and into 2021, as many governments sharply curtailed most economic activity; and rising inflation in the second and third quarters of this year, as the world struggled to get back to something approaching normal.

For most countries in this analysis, 2021 has marked a sharp break from what had been an unusually long period of low-to-moderate inflation. In fact, during the decade leading up to the pandemic, 34 of the 46 countries in the analysis averaged changes in inflation rates of 2.6% or lower. In 27 of these countries, inflation rates averaged less than 2%. The biggest exception was Argentina, whose economy has been plagued by high inflation and other ills for decades. The OECD has no data on Argentine inflation rates before 2018, but in the 2018-19 period it averaged 44.4%.

At the other end of the spectrum is Japan, which has struggled against persistently low inflation and periodic deflation, or falling prices, for more than two decades, mostly without success. In the first quarter of 2020, Japan’s inflation rate was running at an anemic 0.7%. It slid into deflationary territory in the last quarter of 2020 and has remained there since: Consumer prices in the third quarter of this year were 0.2% below their level in the third quarter of 2020.

A few other countries have departed from the general dip-and-surge pattern. In Iceland and Russia, for instance, inflation has risen steadily throughout the pandemic, not just in more recent months.

In Indonesia, inflation fell early on and has remained at low levels. In Mexico, the inflation rate fell slightly during the 2020 lockdown period but returned quickly, hitting 5.8% in the third quarter of 2021, the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2017. And in Saudi Arabia, the pattern was reversed: The inflation rate surged during the height of the pandemic but fell sharply in the most recent quarter, to just 0.4%.

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.

10 Facts About Today’s College Graduates

Having a bachelor’s degree remains an important advantage in many sectors of the U.S. labor market. College graduates generally out-earn those who have not attended college, and they are more likely to be employed in the first place. At the same time, many Americans say they cannot afford to get a four-year degree – or that they just don’t want to.

Here are key facts about American college graduates.

How we did this

Nearly four-in-ten Americans ages 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree, a share that has grown over the last decade. As of 2021, 37.9% of adults in this age group held a bachelor’s degree, including 14.3% who also obtained a graduate or professional degree, according to data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. That share is up 7.5 percentage points from 30.4% in 2011.

An additional 10.5% had an associate degree in 2021. About four-in-ten Americans ages 25 and older had a high school diploma with no further education (25.3%) or completed some college but didn’t have a degree (14.9%).

In a reversal, women are now more likely than men to graduate from college, according to the Current Population Survey. In 2021, 39% of women ages 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or more education, compared with 37% of men in the same age range. The gap in college completion is even wider among adults ages 25 to 34: 46% of women in this age group have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 36% of men.

In an October 2021 Pew Research Center survey of Americans without a degree, 34% of men said a major reason why they have not received a four-year college degree is that they just didn’t want to. Only one-in-four women said the same. Men were also more likely to say a major reason they didn’t have a four-year degree is that they didn’t need more education for the job or career they wanted (26% of men said this vs. 20% of women).

Women (44%) were more likely than men (39%) to say not being able to afford college was a major reason they don’t have a bachelor’s degree. Men and women were about equally likely to say a major impediment was needing to work to help support their family.

‘Why Indians Are Falling For BJP’s ‘Politics Of Negation’ That Shifts Focus From Governance Failures’

Away from the electoral gains earned through the freebie-based welfarism, there should be no mistaking that the making of a Hindu rashtra is under way at full swing at all levels – by attempted legal changes and by weapon sing one minority community by subsuming it under the majoritarian impulse against another minority community through films.

Linking “parivaarvaad”, or dynasty politics, with democracy, as Narendra Modi has done, shows the obsession which the Congress occupies within the ruling dispensation. While the Congress’s party structure has been put under the national scanner – for all the right reasons – the media and citizens have little interest in knowing about the kind of authoritarianism developing within the BJP. Linking the fate of Indian democracy to the Congress’s mode of functioning is an extremely clever way to keep the focus away from matters of governance.

Evidently, the negation – talking about the opponent’s past and not their own present – is the core of the mobilization technique of the BJP and its supporters, which shifts the onus of evaluation from the present to the past.

This new political culture has been nurtured diligently by the ruling dispensation through various mechanisms: control over the media, making institutions pliable, criminalising dissent and activating the hydra-like tentacles of hate in which a command from the top is no longer required to naturalize religious conflict in neighbourhoods and mohallas.

In this regard, people have become active shapers and consumers of this new political culture. They, therefore, should not escape the weight of analysis. They should not be treated merely as docile receivers of political campaigns and programmes. They cannot have it both ways: to act as passive agents of good or bad communication strategies of political parties when suitable, and yet become the bearers of hatred-filled divisive politics that is on display in the physical as well as virtual worlds.

I had earlier mentioned that there are two types of people who use the Congress-BJP tussle to think about the current situation. The second type does not need too many words. They are those who mock the Congress under the shade of being liberal – more as a sign of their suffering, frustration, and lament at the unchanging nature of the party in relation to the power which a dynasty holds over it. Some of them, not so ironically, also praise Modi for his great oratory and communication skills. Some of them, still further, see hope in the rising electoral success of the Aam Aadmi Party.

As it appears currently, the electoral success of the Aam Aadmi Party (or even the Trinamool Congress) would fail to change the new political culture. Borrowing a leaf from the playbook of the BJP will not necessarily change the content and texture of that leaf.

Political choices based on religious majoritarianism, punitive hyper nationalism, and the institutional and moral policing of dissent have shaken social faith in the values and practices of togetherness (and equally importantly, weakened the ways in which conflicts were resolved). The current politics of India is hardly political in its scope and ambition, in its effect and reach. As politics has become emotive, the social appears to be perilously mangled. It is the future of the social that requires raising uncomfortable questions of the people. (Excerpted from: <https://amp.scroll.in/article/1021873/how-the-bjps-politics-of-negation-discredits-opponents-and-shifts-focus-from-governance-failures>.)

16-Year Old Grandmaster Praggnanandhaa Wins Reykjavik Open Chess

R Pragganandhaa, the young Indian chess grandmaster, won the famous Reykjavik Open chess tournament with 7.5 points last week. The 16-year-old defeated compatriot Dommaraju Gukesh in the final round to claim the title. He earned 13.2 elo points for his outstanding performance. Pragganandhaa, Pragg as he is fondly called, finished the 7.5 points from nine rounds, finishing half-point ahead of four players — Max Warmerdam of the Netherlands, Mads Andersen of Denmark, Hjorvar Steinn Gretarsson of Sweden and American Abhimanyu Mishra, the world’s youngest GM, all of whom finished with 7.0 points.

Pragg had a few months back caused a sensation when he defeated World No 1 and reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a rapid game. On Tuesday, the 16-year-old topped the field comprising 245 players — most of them youngsters like him as the organizers had given a 50% discount on the entry fee for players 16 and under.

Praggnanandhaa entered the final round on Tuesday sharing the lead with Warmerdam and Andersen at 6.5 points. The two players from Scandinavian countries played out a 16-move draw on the top board, opening up a chance for the Indian GM from Chennai to win the last round and claim the title.

Pragg did just that even though his position in the game against Gukesh deteriorated as they reached the middle game. However, Pragg held on and then eventually reached a winning position thanks to back-to-back blunders by Gukesh. He bagged three points in that game and claimed the title outright.

Shah Rukh Khan Honored With Happiness Card From UAE Govt

Bollywood superstar and the celebrity face of Dubai tourism Shah Rukh Khan was honoured with a happiness card by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs on April 13.

A picture of the ‘Pathaan’ star holding his newly-gained happiness card was posted on the authorities’ Twitter account. The card aims to give Khan a slew of discounts, privileges, and access to promotions during his stay in the UAE.

The Happiness cardholder will be benefited with various discounts and offers in Dubai.

The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs Dubai (GDRFA) presented Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan with a Happiness Card.

“GDRFA Dubai welcomes Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan and grants him the Happiness Card with the aim of achieving happiness for them through various benefits, discounts, and offers,” the Directorate tweeted.

Khan is no stranger to Dubai and has spearheaded several tourism videos to lure his fans all over the globe to Dubai. In March, Khan along with Dubai Tourism rolled out a promotional short film showcasing the emirate as a must-visit city.

The three-minutes, four-second video opens with Khan busy filming in Dubai when he gets interrupted by a call from his doting daughter Suhana who nudges him to have some fun in the emirate. She urges him to step out of his work mode and explore the glitzy city and what it has to offer.

The next few scenes shows the iconic actor soaking in the sights across Dubai, taking selfies with his adoring fans in the city. He is also seen dancing on Sheikh Zayed Road, overlooking Dubai’s new Museum of the Future. Wide shots of Atlantis The Palm, where he filmed ‘Happy New Year’ are also seen in the short film.

Sundar Pichai Announces $9.5 Bn For New Offices, Data Centres In US

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday announced to invest approximately $9.5 billion for new offices and data centres in the US this year, creating 12,000 new full-time jobs and thousands more among local suppliers, partners and communities.

Pichai said that Google helped provide $617 billion in economic activity for millions of American businesses, nonprofits, creators, developers and publishers last year.

“In addition, the Android app economy helped create nearly two million jobs last year, and YouTube’s creative ecosystem supported 394,000 jobs in 2020,” he informed.

In the past five years, Google has invested more than $37 billion in its offices and data centres in 26 US states, creating over 40,000 full-time jobs.

“That’s in addition to the more than $40 billion in research and development the company invested in 2020 and 2021,” said the company.

Pichai said that while it might seem counterintuitive to step up investment in physical offices even as the world embraces more flexibility in how we work.

“Yet we believe it’s more important than ever to invest in our campuses and that doing so will make for better products, a greater quality of life for our employees, and stronger communities,” the Google CEO noted.

At the same time, the investments in data centres “will continue to power the digital tools and services that help people and businesses thrive”.

“As we work towards running our offices and data centres on carbon-free energy 24/7 by 2030, we’re aiming to set new standards for green building design”.

In California, Google will continue to invest in offices and support affordable housing initiatives in the Bay Area as part of its $1 billion housing commitment. (IANS)

Cheti Chand /Sindhi Language Day Celebrations At Indian Consulate In New York

Sindhi Community of USA and Consulate General of India celebrated Cheti Chand Sindhi

New Year at Indian Consulate in New York.

In his opening remarks Jagdish Sewhani Organiser of the event thanked Consul General Randhir Jaiswal for celebrating Cheti Chand and Sindhi Culture,at Indian  Consulate , first time ever in India’s 75 years of Independence.

Sewhani said that Sindhi  Civilization is more than Ten thousands years old , one of the oldest Civilizations in the world. Though Sindhi constitutes less than one percent of India’s population but there contributions in India’s development is unmatched in every field from business, Industry, education, hospitals , Realestate, Film industry, Sports etc. In every field Sindhis have contributed a lot .

After partition in 1947 Sindhis came to India Empty handed, but with Shear Hard work today they have achieved a lot in various fields .Sindhis believe in Charity, they run many educational institutions and hospitals in India.

Sewhani said that Sindhi language is in decline. Today youngsters don’t speak Sindhi language. In a passionate appeal to Sindhis he urged them to speak with their children in Sindhi . Sindhi is our Ancestral language. It’s very important that if you want Sindhi community to be alive , Sindhi language has to be spoken at home with children.

What Is The Sikh Festival Of Baisakhi And Why Is It So Sacred?

Originally a spring harvest festival, Baisakhi acquired religious significance after the10th Sikh guru created the Khalsa, a distinctive Sikh identity, on this day.

Sikhs all over the world celebrate the festival of Baisakhi, a holiday with a special religious significance, observed each year on April 13 or 14. In 2022, Baisakhi falls on April 14.

As a sociologist of religion studying Sikhs in the West and as someone who was raised Sikh, I know that Baisakhi is one of Sikhism’s most widely celebrated holidays. I remember attending celebratory Baisakhi processions in Amritsar in northern India where large crowds gathered, many wearing traditional Sikh clothing, and danced and practiced Sikh martial arts.

Originally a spring harvest festival celebrated in the northern Indian state of Punjab, the festival gained religious significance for Sikhs when Guru Gobind Singh – the 10th and final living guru for Sikhs – created the Khalsa in 1699.

What is the Khalsa?

Sikhs see the creation of the Khalsa, which is commonly translated as “pure,” as creating a distinctive Sikh identity.

Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa with the intention that Sikhs who joined the order be set apart from those around them. Sikhs initiated as members of the Khalsa are known as “amritdhari” Sikhs. Sikhs who have not been “initiated” are known as “sahejdhari” Sikhs. The precise size of each group is not known, but amritdhari Sikhs are a significant minority.

Sikhs are initiated into this order through the “amrit pahul.” It is a rite that involves drinking a nectar called amrit, prepared using a mixture of sugar and water that has been stirred with a double-edged sword. The initiates read from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture that is seen as the embodiment of the guru, recite a formal prayer, and agree to adhere to guidelines for behavior and practice.

All those initiated wear symbols with religious significance, known as the five K’s: kesh (uncut hair), kanga (wooden comb), kachera (cotton undershorts), kirpan (a steel blade), and kara (a steel bracelet). Each has its own symbolic meaning. The kirpan, for example, symbolizes one’s commitment to protect the defenseless and defend their faith. The five K’s also set the Khalsa apart from all others, serving as an outward expression of commitment to the Sikh faith.

Amritdhari Sikhs are all expected to wear the five K’s. Although sahejdhari Sikhs may wear some or all of the five K’s, most Sikhs today do not expect them to do so.

Although scholars debate when exactly a separate Sikh identity was formed, for many Sikhs today Baisakhi is seen as formative turning point in the Sikh faith.

Sikhs mark the occasion by going to Gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship, for a service, followed by a procession. There is singing, bhangra dancing and Sikh martial arts called gatka. In addition, for Sikhs in the diaspora, such public celebrations are also an opportunity to help the non-Sikh public better understand Sikh beliefs and practice.

Sikhs see Sikhism as a tradition that has been fundamentally concerned with equality from its outset. They believe in equality among men and women and reject caste distinctions.

With the creation of the Khalsa, Guru Gobind Singh called for men initiated into the Khalsa to discard their last names and take the last name Singh and women to take the last name Kaur as a rejection of caste. This is because in India, last names are indicators of caste. When Sikhs communicate to non-Sikhs about their faith, they often emphasize this egalitarian vision of Sikhism.

Sikhs have been living in the U.S. since the late 1800s. Today, the Sikh population in the U.S. is estimated at around 500,000. However, they are a group that most Americans know little about. Sikhs in the U.S. are often subject to Islamophobia and have been targets of violent attacks, in large part because they are commonly mistaken for Muslims.

A resolution was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 28, 2022, that, if passed, would make April 14 National Sikh Day.

Establishing a National Sikh Day would have a symbolic meaning for Sikhs who have faced discrimination in the U.S, and it would acknowledge their contributions to American society.

How Much You Should Sleep Every Night

A national panel of sleep experts released new recommendations Monday that call for more hours of sleep for most young people.

The National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at promoting healthy sleep and safety, says the amount of sleep a person needs is highly variable and that some people need more than others. Still, the new hour ranges for each age group recommend more hours for infants, kids and teens:

Newborns (0-3 months ): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)

Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)

Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)

Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)

School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)

Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)

Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)

Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours

Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

To come up with the new recommendations, the foundation put together a panel of 18 scientists and researchers from prominent medical associations in the United States and asked them to review over 300 studies on how much sleep is ideal. The panel then voted on how much sleep is appropriate at different ages.

Getting too little sleep and getting too much sleep are both unhealthy behaviors that can lead to a variety of consequences from grogginess to weight gain.

COVID-19, Overdoses Made 2021 The Deadliest Year In U.S. History

2021 was the deadliest year in U.S. history, and new data and research are offering more insights into how it got that bad.

The main reason for the increase in deaths? COVID-19, said Robert Anderson, who oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work on death statistics.

The agency this month quietly updated its provisional death tally. It showed there were 3.465 million deaths last year, or about 80,000 more than 2020’s record-setting total.

Early last year, some experts were optimistic that 2021 would not be as bad as the first year of the pandemic — partly because effective COVID-19 vaccines had finally become available. “We were wrong, unfortunately,” said Noreen Goldman, a Princeton University researcher.

COVID-19 deaths rose in 2021 — to more than 415,000, up from 351,000 the year before — as new coronavirus variants emerged and an unexpectedly large numbers of Americans refused to get vaccinated or were hesitant to wear masks, experts said.

The coronavirus is not solely to blame. Preliminary CDC data also shows the crude death rate for cancer rose slightly, and rates continued to increase for diabetes, chronic liver disease, and stroke.

Drug overdose deaths also continued to rise. The CDC does not yet have a tally for 2021 overdose deaths, because it can take weeks of lab work and investigation to identify them. But provisional data through October suggests the nation is on track to see at least 105,000 overdose deaths in 2021 — up from 93,000 the year before.

New research released Tuesday showed a particularly large jump in overdose deaths among 14- to 18-year-olds.

Adolescent overdose death counts were fairly constant for most of the last decade, at around 500 a year, according to the paper published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. They almost doubled in 2020, to 954, and the researchers estimated that the total hit nearly 1,150 last year.

Joseph Friedman, a UCLA researcher who was the paper’s lead author, called the spike “unprecedented.”

Those teen overdose deaths were only around 1% of the U.S. total. But adolescents experienced a greater relative increase than the overall population, even though surveys suggest drug use among teens is down.

‘Experts attributed the spike to fentanyl, a highly lethal drug that has been cut into heroin for several years. More recently it’s also been pressed into counterfeit pills resembling prescription drugs that teens sometimes abuse.

The total number of U.S. deaths often increases year to year as the U.S. population grows. But 2020 and 2021 saw extraordinary jumps in death numbers and rates, due largely to the pandemic.

Those national death trends affect life expectancy — an estimate of the average number of years a baby born in a given year might expect to live.

With rare exceptions, U.S. life expectancy has reliably inched up year after year. But the CDC’s life expectancy estimate for 2020 was about 77 years — more than a year and a half lower than what it was in 2019.

The CDC has not yet reported its calculation for 2021. But Goldman and some other researchers have been making their own estimates, presented in papers that have not yet been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Those researchers think U.S. life expectancy dropped another five or six months in 2021 — putting it back to where it was 20 years ago.

A loss of more than two years of life expectancy over the last two years “is mammoth,” Goldman said.

One study looked at death data in the U.S. and 19 other high-income countries. The U.S. fared the worst.

“What happened in the U.S. is less about the variants than the levels of resistance to vaccination and the public’s rejection of practices, such as masking and mandates, to reduce viral transmission,” one of the study’s authors, Dr. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a statement.

Some experts are skeptical that life expectancy will quickly bounce back. They worry about long-term complications of COVID-19 that may hasten the deaths of people with chronic health problems.

Preliminary — and incomplete — CDC data suggest there were at least 805,000 U.S. deaths in about the first three months of this year. That’s well below the same period last year, but higher than the comparable period in 2020.

“We may end up with a ‘new normal’ that’s a little higher than it was before,” Anderson said.

Delhi Airport Is World’s Third Busiest Airport

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) was the third busiest airport in the world. The information was revealed by a report based on the data provided by the UK based data provider Official Airline Guide (OAG). The organization monitors global travel data and analyses multiple aspects like busiest airports, busiest flight routes and a myriad of other travel-related data.

US airports dominated the list of busiest airports in March, claiming five of the top 10 spots.

According to a report published by the UK-based Official Airline Guide (OAG), Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) is the world’s third busiest airport.

Atlanta International Airport in the United States is first on the list, followed by Dubai International Airport. According to the OAG report, Delhi’s IGIA airport has eclipsed China’s Guangzhou airport, moving up six points to take third place. Guangzhou airport in China is now the world’s fourth busiest.

Other airports on the top 10 list include Dallas Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Tokyo International (Haneda), and London Heathrow Airport.

US airports have significantly dominated the list of busiest airports, capturing five out of the top ten positions in the list for the month of March. The OAG report says, “Growth of the US airports has come at the expense of Asian presence in the Global Top 10 as some of the big global airports of 2019, such as Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, slide down from their 2019 positions affected by travel restrictions.”

China Debt Traps in the New Cold War

As China increases lending to other developing countries, ‘debt trap’ charges are growing quickly. As it greatly augments financing for development while other sources continue to decline, condemnation of China’s loans is being weaponized in the new Cold War.

Debt-trap diplomacy?
The catchy term ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ was coined by Indian geo-strategist Brahma Chellaney in 2017. According to him, China lends to extract economic or political concessions when a debtor country is unable to meet payment obligations. Thus, it overwhelms poor countries with loans, to eventually make them subservient.

Unsurprisingly, his catchphrase has been popularized to demonize China. Harvard’s Belfer Center has obligingly elaborated on the rising Asian power’s nefarious geostrategic interests. Meanwhile, as with so much else, the Biden administration continues related Trump policies.

But even Western researchers generally wary of China dispute the new narrative. A London Chatham House study concluded it is simply wrong – flawed, with scant supporting evidence.

Studying China’s loan arrangements for 13,427 projects in 165 countries over 18 years, AidData – at the US-based Global Research Institute – could not find a single instance of China seizing a foreign asset following loan default.

China has been the ‘new kid on the block’ of development financing for more than a decade. Its growing loans have helped fill the yawning gap left by the decline and increasing private business orientation of financing by the global North.

Instead of tied aid pushing exports, as before, it now shamelessly promotes foreign direct investment from donor nations. Unless disbursed via multilateral institutions, China’s increased lending to support businesses abroad has not really helped developing countries cope with renewed ‘tied’ concessional aid.

Grand ‘debt trap diplomacy’ narratives make for great propaganda, but obscure debt flows’ actual impacts. Most Chinese lending is for infrastructure and productive investment projects, not donor-determined ‘policy loans’. Some countries ‘over-borrow’, but most do not. Deals can turn sour, but most apparently don’t.

While leaving less room for discretionary abuse in implementation, project lending typically puts borrowers at a disadvantage. This is largely due to the terms of sought-after foreign investment and financing, regardless of source. Hence, the outcomes of most such borrowing – not just from China – vary.

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port is the most frequently mentioned China debt trap case. The typical media account presumes it lent money to build the port expecting Sri Lanka to get into debt distress. China then supposedly seized it – in exchange for providing debt relief – enabling use by its navy.

But independent studies have debunked this version. Last year, The Atlantic insisted, ‘The Chinese “Debt Trap” Is a Myth’. The subtitle elaborated, “The narrative wrongfully portrays both Beijing and the developing countries it deals with”.

It elaborated: “Our research shows that Chinese banks are willing to restructure the terms of existing loans and have never actually seized an asset from any country, much less the port of Hambantota”.

The project was initiated by then President Mahindra Rajapaksa – not China or its bankers. Feasibility studies by the Canadian International Development Agency and the Danish engineering firm Rambol found it viable. The Chinese Harbour Group construction firm only got involved after the US and India both refused Sri Lankan loan requests.

Sri Lanka’s later debt crisis has been due to its structural economic weaknesses and foreign debt composition. The Chatham House report blamed it on excessive borrowing from Western-dominated capital markets – not Chinese banks.

Even the influential US Foreign Policy journal does not blame Sri Lanka’s undoubted economic difficulties on Chinese debt traps. Instead, “Sri Lanka has not successfully or responsibly updated its debt management strategies to reflect the loss of development aid that it had become accustomed to for decades”.

As the US Fed tapered ‘quantitative easing’, borrowing costs – due to Sri Lanka’s persistent balance of payment problems – rose, forcing it to seek International Monetary Fund help. Some argue borrowing even more from China is the best option available to the island republic.

To set the record straight, there was no debt-for-asset swap after Sri Lanka could no longer service its foreign debt. Instead, a Chinese state-owned enterprise leased the port for US$1.1 billion. Sri Lanka has thus boosted its foreign reserves and paid down its debt to other – mainly Western – creditors.

Also, Chinese navy vessels cannot use the port – home to Sri Lanka’s own southern naval command. “In short, the Hambantota Port case shows little evidence of Chinese strategy, but lots of evidence for poor governance on the recipient side”.

Malaysia
China has also been accused by the media of seeking influence over the Straits of Malacca, through which some 80% of its oil imports pass. Debt-trap proponents claim Beijing therefore inflated lending for Malaysia’s controversial East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).

The Chatham House report notes, “The real issue here is not one of geopolitics, but rather – as in Sri Lanka – the recipient government’s efforts to harness Chinese investment and development financing to advance domestic political agendas, reflecting both need and greed”.

ECRL was initiated by convicted former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak. Ostensibly to develop the less developed East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, it rejected other less costly, but much needed options.

Borrowings are far more than needed – probably for nefarious purposes. Loan terms were structured to delay repayment – to Najib’s political advantage by ‘passing the buck’ to later generations. But such abuse is by the borrower – not the lender – unless Chinese official connivance is involved.

Non-alignment for our times
There is undoubtedly much room for improving development finance, especially to achieve more sustainable development. Instead of mainly lending to the US, as before, China’s growing role can still be improved. To begin, all involved should respect the United Nations’ principles on responsible sovereign lending and borrowing.

After more than half a century of Western donors’ largely betrayed promises, China’s development finance has significantly improved ‘South-South cooperation’. Meanwhile, sustainable development finance needs – compounded by global warming, the pandemic and Ukraine war – have increased.

After decades of the West denying China commensurate voice in decision making, even under rules it made, its role on the world stage has grown. But instead of working together for the benefit of all, rich countries seem intent on demonizing it. Unsurprisingly, most developing country governments seem undeterred.

As the new Cold War and the scope of economic sanctions spread, collateral damage is undermining development finance and developing countries. To cope with the new situation, developing countries need to consider building a new non-aligned movement for our dark times.

“Everything Must Change But Love Remains The Same;” Ilaiyaraaja

One of India’s greatest music directors Ilaiyaraaja has said that everything in the world must change but the one thing that would remain the same was love.

He made this observation in a reply to director Aishwaryaa Rajinikanth, who had put out a series of pictures on social media about a recent meeting she had had with him.

Aishwaraya had said, “My Monday mid noon couldn’t have been more musical and magical. Always a delight to spend time with my dearest Ilaiyaraaja uncle. #mondayvibes #workmodeon.”

Responding to her tweet on Tuesday, Ilaiyaraaja said, “Am happy to meet and spend time. Many things may happen in one’s life but one thing will never change – my true love. God bless you. Be happy always. Everything must change. But one thing will remain the same, that’s love.”

The music director also went on to post a YouTube link to Quincy Jones’s number ‘Everything must change.”

Speculation has been rife in the film industry if Ilaiyaraaja is scoring the music for Aishwaryaa Rajinikanth’s next film as the filmmaker, in her tweet, had hashtagged the phrase, ‘work mode on’. (IANS)

Sooni Taraporevala Urges Re-Releasing Of “Mississippi Masala” In US

The screen-writer of Mississippi Masala talks about what makes the Mira Nair directorial relevant to the current generation of the Indian diaspora in the US even today

31 years after it first premiered in France, filmmaker Mira Nair’s Mississippi Masala is all set to re-release in a remixed and remastered format in the USA on April 15. The film starring Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury revolves around Indians being subjected to racism and xenophobia in Uganda.

Its screenplay writer Sooni Taraporevala believes that the film will have a strong impact on the new generation of the Indian diaspora in the USA this time around as well. “When the film first came out, I was in India and there were so many comments like, ‘We aren’t like that, we aren’t racists’ but it’s just not true. We like pointing fingers at others and call them racist, but deny it when it comes to us. It’s going to be very relevant for the next generation because sadly, not much has changed,” she says. Sharing her excitement about the re-release of the film,

Taraporevala, who bagged the Golden Osella Best Original Screenplay for it at the Venice international Film Festival in 1991, says, “In a climate where new films aren’t getting released theatrically, we find it absolutely amazing and thrilling that a film that’s 30-year-old is being re-released.”

The Salaam Bombay! (1988) and The Namesake (2006) writer feels that it’s imperative to introduce the younger NRI audience to cult classics that offer them a glimpse into their culture. She explains, “It’s always important to expose them to what came before, provided it’s relevant, especially in today’s times where attention spans are zero. Nobody reads and so, there’s no concept of history today.”

Taraporevala further reveals that Mississippi Masala holds a special place in Nair’s heart due to personal reasons. “Mira met her husband, Mahmood Mamdani, when we went to Kampala to do our research. The house in the film is now her house. Her son was born there,” she ends.

WHO To Set Up World’s First Global Center For Traditional Medicine In India

The global center will the first-of-its-kind institution in the world to combine scientific research with ancient traditional methods of medicine.

The World Health Organization(WHO) and Government of India signed an agreement to establish the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine(GCTM) in Gujarat, India to promote traditional medicine backed by science and reasearch to improve the health of people all over the world.

With India set to establish WHO Global Centre for traditional medicine in Jamnagar, Gujarat, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region has called it a “game-changer.”

Traditional medicines, she said have been around for millennia and pointed out that nearly 80 per cent of people, in 170 of 194 WHO member countries use them.

“Despite their widespread use, traditional medicine lack robust evidence, data and a standard framework preventing their integration into the mainstream healthcare delivery system,” Dr Singh said in an exclusive interview with ANI.

“WHOs Global Centre for traditional medicine could be a game-changer by focusing on evidence and learning, data and analytics, sustainability and equity, innovation and technology to help harness the ancient wisdom and power of traditional medicine, and to advance the SDG 3 target of ensuring health and promoting wellbeing for all of all ages,” she added.

The center backed by an investment of USD 250 million from the Government of India, will be located at Jamnagar, Gujarat. The groundbreaking ceremony for the GCTM will take place on April 19, 2022, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Director-General of WHO Tedros Ghebreyesus.

Dr Singh said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus and expressed India’s keenness in establishing and hosting the GCTM in India so as to harness the potential of traditional medicine from across the world through modern science and technology to improve the health of people and the planet.

The Government of India last month signed the ‘Host Country Agreement’ with WHO for establishing WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in India at Jamnagar, Gujarat, with its interim office at the Institute of Training and Research in Ayurveda in Gujarat. “Indian Government has generously agreed to support the setting up of the GCTM and its activities for the first ten years,” Dr Singh said.

Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic is stretching and impacting the health systems across the world, Dr Singh pointed out many countries felt the need to mobilize all available resources to recover from the pandemic and accelerate progress towards SDG 3 goals.

“The emerging burden of NCDs and mental illnesses have also created a demand for integrating evidence-based traditional medicine into the healthcare delivery system to promote health and wellbeing,” she said.

Gautam Adani Now 6th Richest Person In World $20.6 Billion Richer Than Mukesh Ambani Of Reliance

Gautam Adani, founder and chairman of the Adani group, a conglomerate with businesses in sectors such as energy, ports, mining, edible oil and so on, with a net worth of $118 billion is now the world’s sixth-richest person, driven by a meteoric rise in the value of Adani group’s listed stocks. The 59-year-old mogul has overtaken Google’s famed founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

It is important to note here in this context that Adani’s net worth soared by $8.57 billion, or about Rs 65,091 crore, due to a rise in the share prices of Adani Green Energy, Adani Enterprises, Adani Gas and Adani Transmission on Monday. While India’s benchmark indices ended the day in the red on Monday, shares of Adani Group surged up to 16 per cent.

Adani Green Energy breaks into list of top 10 most valued firms on BSE, replaces Bharti Airtel

With an almost $41.6 billion jump in his personal fortune, Gautam Adani is the world’s biggest wealth-gainer this year. Meanwhile, Reliance Industries (RIL)— India’s most valuable company—chairman Mukesh Ambani’s total wealth now stands at $97.4 billion, and he is now the 11th richest in the world, as per the latest Bloomberg billionaire ranking. So far this year, his personal wealth has increased by $7.45 billion. If we go by the Bloomberg wealth index, Adani is $20.6 billion ahead of Ambani at present, and it could be tough for the RIL boss to catch up very quickly.

The moot question is: What’s made Adani so rich, so fast? The tycoon is pushing into clean energy, airports and power plants. The mega stock market gainer that catapulted Adani to the top position is Adani Green Energy. Shares of the company soared 16.25 per cent to settle at Rs 2,701.55 apiece on BSE on Monday. It entered the list of top-10 valued companies as its market valuation zoomed over Rs 4.22 lakh crore.

For the last 14 years, Ambani has been the leader of India’s wealthiest list. The oil-to-telecom conglomerate boss was briefly dethroned by pharmaceutical tycoon Dilip Sangavi a few years ago but grabbed the top position.

Last week, Adani had reached a net worth of $100 billion as he became the new member of the centibillionaires club. Worth mentioning here is that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (currently have a net worth of $176 billion) was the first to hit the $100 billion milestone in 2017 since Microsoft. co-founder Bill Gates back in 1999 for a brief period.

Tesla chief executive Musk, now the world’s richest person with a fortune of $249 billion, joined the elite club in 2020.

Meanwhile, in the last 10 years, while Ambani’s wealth has grown 400 per cent, Adani has seen a 1,830 per cent jump, as per the 2022 M3M Hurun Global Rich List.

This Is The Time To Unite: AR Rahman On North-South Debate

Pointing out that it was very easy to divide people through art, Oscar-winner and one of India’s top music directors A.R. Rahman said that this was the time to unite and to celebrate differences.

Speaking at the CII-DAKSHIN South India Media and Entertainment Summit, where he was honoured with the Icon award, Rahman recalled an incident that had occurred in Malaysia seven years ago.

“I had gone to Malaysia some seven years ago. There, a nice Chinese gentleman told me, ‘You are from India?’ I like India. I like North India better. They are more fair. He said, “Their movies are much more charming.”

The music director said that the gentleman’s comments got him thinking and it made him wonder if the man had actually watched south Indian movies and why he made such a statement.

“It deeply disturbed me. Then, I discovered that what we need to do is we need to cast people with colour. Make them empowering and give them characters which will give them dignity. This is the most important thing that south Indians can do because we love our colour,” he said.

Rahman also went on to make it clear that be it south India or north India, India was India.

“For me, it doesn’t matter. Somebody does good here, north India benefits. Somebody does good there, we benefit. the borders are broken. If you look at Netflix, people watch Malayalam movies, Tamil movies everything… The borders are broken but we need to empower ourselves definitely. And through art, it is much more easier,” he said.

Rahman said, “Imagination should not be just for South Indians. Just for our culture. You need to show the world what minds we are and what culture we have in the most international way,” the music director pointed out before concluding his speech with a point on unity.

“It is very easy to divide people through art, through movies. This is the time to unite. This is the time to celebrate differences. This is the time to show the unity so that we can be more powerful and we can lead the world,” he said. (IANS)

Persecution Of Christians In India As World Observes Good Friday

Today, over two thousand years ago Jesus Christ was persecuted or believed to be crucified on this day. Followers of Jesus are even today being persecuted in certain parts of the world including in India wherein vested groups of people are spreading hatred against minorities for their political gains.

2014          127
2015          142
2016          226
2017          248
2018          292
2019          328
2020          279
2021          502
2022          127

(till April 13)

The persecution of Christians in India is intensifying which is leading to a systemic and carefully orchestrated violence against Christians, including use of social media to spread disinformation and stir up hatred.

The strong infiltration of hatred against Christians, have witnessed 127 incidents of violence in 2014 which increased to five hundred fold in 2021 as 502 incidents of violence was reported in 2021 on UCF toll-free helpline number 1800-208-4545.

Most church leaders are men, and being a pastor is understood to be one of the riskiest vocations in India. Pastors and their families are targeted to instill fear among them.

In the first 103 days of 2022 we have already witnessed 127 incidents of violence against Christians. January saw 40 incidents, 35 incidents in February, 34 incidents in March and just in 13 days of April 18 incidents of violence were reported on UCF helpline. In which 89 Pastors were beaten up and threatened from conducting prayers for which they became pastors. 68 Churches were attacked in which 367 women and 366 children received injuries. Out of 127 incidents 82 incidents were mob violence.

There are 42 cases pending in various courts challenging the constitutional validity of the so-called “Freedom of Religion Act against” which have been framed with a malafide intention to harass the Christian community who are falsely accused of forceful conversion. Whereas, till today, not a single Christian has been convicted for forcing any one to convert. Moreover, census after census have shown that Christian population remained 2.3 percent of India’s population of 1.2 billion.

There are many false cases that were filed against Christians which the courts have found untrue and pulled up the police and the authorities for misusing the poser. One example is in May 2017, 72 Christian children going for Christian camp from Madhya Pradesh to Nagpur accompanied by six elders were detained on charges of being “kidnapped to be converted’. The Madhya Pradesh High Court granting bail to children and elders directed the police to come back with evidence to prove their claim that children are not Christians and that they were being kidnapped to be converted. Till today, the police have not come back to Court.

In another judgement, beginning of 2019, the Delhi High Court while restoring the status of Overseas Citizen of India said that the government could not show any proof whatsoever of having forcefully or fraudulently converting even a single person. Under similar charges, there were over 40 Churches in Jaunpur District of Uttar Pradesh that were shut down in 2018. Even though pastors and other Christian leaders are out on bail, the police are yet to file the charge sheets against any of them as they do not have any evidence to prove fraud or forceful conversions. There are hundreds of such cases, if not in thousands, that are lying in front of various courts across India due to the absence of proof of fraud or forceful conversions.

The various courts in India in the last 15 months – January 2021 to March 2022 have acquitted Christians of false allegations of conversions in 59 cases (41 in 2021 and 18 till March 2022).

There are racial and ethnic differences in college graduation patterns, as well as in the reasons for not completing a degree. Among adults ages 25 and older, 61% of Asian Americans have a bachelor’s degree or more education, along with 42% of White adults, 28% of Black adults and 21% of Hispanic adults, according to 2021 Current Population Survey data. The share of bachelor’s degree holders in each group has increased since 2010. That year, 52% of Asian Americans had a four-year degree or more, compared with a third of White adults, 20% of Black adults and 14% of Hispanic adults.

The October 2021 Center survey found that among adults without a bachelor’s degree, Hispanic adults (52%) were more likely than those who are White (39%) or Black (41%) to say a major reason they didn’t graduate from a four-year college is that they couldn’t afford it. Hispanic and Black adults were more likely than their White counterparts to say needing to work to support their family was a major reason.

While a third of White adults said not wanting to go to school was a major reason they didn’t complete a four-year degree, smaller shares of Black (22%) and Hispanic (23%) adults said the same. White adults were also more likely to cite not needing more education for the job or career they wanted. (There weren’t enough Asian adults without a bachelor’s degree in the sample to analyze separately.)

Only 62% of students who start a degree or certificate program finish their program within six years, according to the most recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit verification and research organization that tracked first-time college students who enrolled in fall 2015 with the intent of pursuing a degree or certificate. The degree completion rate for this group was highest among students who started at four-year, private, nonprofit schools (78.3%), and lowest among those who started at two-year public institutions (42.2%).

Business is the most commonly held bachelor’s degree, followed by health professions. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about a fifth (19%) of the roughly 2 million bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2019-20 were in business. Health professions and related programs were the second most-popular field, making up 12.6% of degrees conferred that year. Business has been the single most common major since 1980-81; before that, education led the way.

The least common bachelor’s degrees in 2019-20 were in military technologies and applied sciences (1,156 degrees conferred in 2019-20), library science (118), and precision production (39).

There is a growing earnings gap between young college graduates and their counterparts without degrees. In 2021, full-time workers ages 22 to 27 who held a bachelor’s degree, but no further education, made a median annual wage of $52,000, compared with $30,000 for full-time workers of the same age with a high school diploma and no degree, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This gap has widened over time. Young bachelor’s degree holders earned a median annual wage of $48,481 in 1990, compared with $35,257 for full-time workers ages 22 to 27 with a high school diploma.

The unemployment rate is lower for college graduates than for workers without a bachelor’s degree, and that gap widened as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In February 2020, just before the COVID-19 outbreak began in the U.S., only 1.9% of college graduates ages 25 and older were unemployed, compared with 3.1% of workers who completed some college but not a four-year degree, and 3.7% of workers with only a high school diploma. By June 2020, after the pandemic hit, 6.8% of college grads, 10.8% of workers with some college, and 12.2% of high school grads were unemployed.

By March 2022, the unemployment rate had nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels for college graduates (2%) while dropping to 3% among those with some college education but no four-year degree, and 4% among those with only a high school diploma.

Recent college graduates are more likely than graduates overall to be underemployed – that is, working in jobs that typically do not require a college degree, according to an analysis of Census Bureau and BLS data by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of December 2021, 41% of college graduates ages 22 to 27 were underemployed, compared with 34% among all college graduates. The underemployment rates for recent college grads rose in 2020 as the COVID-19 outbreak strained the job market, but have since returned to pre-pandemic levels.

As of the end of 2021, only 34% of underemployed graduates ages 22 to 27 worked what the Fed defines as “good non-college jobs” – those paying at least $45,000 a year – down from around half in the 1990s. The share of underemployed graduates ages 22 to 27 in low-wage jobs – those earning less than $25,000 annually – rose from about 9% in 1990 to 11% last year.

When it comes to income and wealth accumulation, first-generation college graduates lag substantially behind those with college-educated parents, according to a May 2021 Pew Research Center analysis. Households headed by a first-generation college graduate – that is, someone who has completed at least a bachelor’s degree but does not have a parent with a college degree – had a median annual income of $99,600 in 2019, compared with $135,800 for households headed by those with at least one parent who graduated from college. The median wealth of households headed by first-generation college graduates ($152,000) also trailed that of households headed by someone with a parent who graduated from college ($244,500). The higher household income of the latter facilitates saving and wealth accumulation.

The gap also reflects differences in how individuals finance their education. Second-generation college graduates tend to come from more affluent families, while first-generation college graduates are more likely to incur education debt than those with a college-educated parent.

Most Americans with college degrees see value in their experience. In the Center’s October 2021 survey, majorities of graduates said their college education was extremely or very useful when it came to helping them grow personally and intellectually (79%), opening doors to job opportunities (70%) and developing specific skills and knowledge that could be used in the workplace (65%).

Younger college graduates were less likely than older ones to see value in their college education. For example, only a third of college graduates younger than 50 said their college experience was extremely useful in helping them develop skills and knowledge that could be used in the workplace. Among college graduates ages 50 and older, 45% said this.

Ukraine Main Theme During Modi-Biden Talks

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden met virtually on Monday, April 11, 2022, as India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh were in Washington for the fourth ‘2+ 2’ foreign and defense ministry dialogues with their U.S. counterparts. The war between Russia and Ukraine featured prominently in the opening remarks of both, media reports here stated.

During the opening segment of the bilateral meeting, Jaishankar, Singh, India’s U.S. Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan were seen seated at the table with Biden.

The meeting also involved a discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy and climate action, as well as regional and global issues, including those in South Asia and the Indo Pacific. The U.S. official briefing reporters said that Sri Lanka and Pakistan were discussed, but not in detail, with more detailed discussions expected over the next day and a half, i.e., during the course of the 2+2 meetings..

According to reports, U.S. President Joe Biden told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that buying more Russian oil is not in India’s interest, as the United States pushes New Delhi to take a harder line against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden told Modi during an hour-long video call Monday that the U.S. is ready to help India diversify its sources of energy, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “The president also made clear that he doesn’t believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy or other commodities,” Psaki said.

The statement from the government of India regarding the meeting said the two leaders had discussed Ukraine at the meeting, as well as regional and global issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy, climate and “recent developments in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region”. Speaking to reporters on a briefing call, a Senior U.S. administration official said that developments in Sri Lanka and Pakistan had been “touched on” but not discussed in a detailed manner.

Modi, who spoke via videolink to Biden, described the situation in Ukraine as “very worrying” and said he had spoken, several times, with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin and had not just urged peace, but also direct talks between them. India’s unwillingness to call out Russia by name for its attack on Ukraine has not gone down well in Washington, but U.S. officials have also said that they hoped countries that have relationships with Moscow might leverage them to bring about a resolution to the situation.

“The United States and India are going to continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war,” Biden said in his opening remarks. The US government’s readout of the meeting said that Ukraine was also discussed. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, a senior U.S. administration official said there was a “pretty detailed and candid exchange of views” on Ukraine but added that Biden made no “concrete ask” of India and Modi gave no “concrete answer”.

India has also continued to purchase Russian oil and gas, despite pressure from the United States and other Western countries to refrain. Russia has offered steep discounts on its energy supplies, and India has bought at least 13 million barrels of Russian crude oil since the invasion of Ukraine, compared with the 16 million barrels it bought in 2021, according to data compiled by Reuters.

The comment by the official was in response to a reporter’s question on whether any explicit commitments were sought from India in terms of Russian oil, and also with regard to condemning Russia for attacking Ukraine. Both the official and Press Secretary Jen Psaki emphasized that while payments for energy from Russia were not sanctioned, the U.S. was discouraging India from increasing its purchases of Russian energy.  In comments shortly after the bilateral meeting, Psaki said that Biden had “made clear” what the impact of US sanctions would be, adding, “We expect everybody to abide by those”.

“The President made clear that he does not believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy and other commodities,” Psaki said, adding that Mr. Biden had reiterated a U.S. offer to help India diversity its energy imports. India currently imports only a small 1-2% of its energy from Russia as per official estimates. Psaki used the words “constructive”  “productive” and “direct” to describe the conversation. She said the call was not “adversarial”.

Referring to Biden’s slogan, ‘Democracies can deliver,’ Modi said, ‘The success of the India-America partnership is the best means to make this slogan meaningful.” “At the root of our partnership is a deep connection between our people, ties of family, of friendship, and of shared values,” Biden said. The President was seen nodding as Modi outlined the humanitarian assistance that India had provided Ukraine.

“I want to welcome India’s humanitarian support for the people Ukraine, who are suffering a horrific assault, including a tragic shelling on a train station last week that killed dozens … attempting to flee the violence,” Biden said.

Modi expressed growing concern about the situation in Ukraine, particularly in Bucha, where the remains of many civilians have been found. “Recently, the news of the killings of innocent civilians in the city of Bucha was very worrying. We immediately condemned it and have asked for an independent probe,” Modi said.

A U.S. official described the call between the two leaders as “warm and productive,” saying Biden stopped short of making a “concrete ask” of Modi on Russian energy imports. During a short portion of the call open to reporters, Biden started the conversation by highlighting the partnership between the U.S. and India, saying the nations would “continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war.”

Imran Khan Forced To Resign, Shehbaz Sharif To Be Pak PM

Members of the Pakistan Parliament are set to choose Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif as the next prime minister of Pakistan after former cricket star Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote that ended his four-year run. According to media reports, Opposition parties were able to secure 174 votes in the 342-member house for the no-confidence motion, giving them the majority they needed to vote against Khan after Sunday midnight in Islamabad, two more than required to remove him from office.

PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif has been nominated as the joint opposition candidate for the prime minister’s election. The 70-year-old is the younger brother of former Pak PM Nawaz Sharif. Reuters reported that Shehbaz Sharif has submitted his nomination to be Pakistan’s next prime minister to the legislature, after incumbent Imran Khan lost a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Khan’s party also submitted papers nominating the former foreign minister as a candidate, saying their members of parliament would resign en masse should he lose, potentially creating the need for urgent by-elections for their seats. Khan, the first Pakistani prime minister to be ousted by a no confidence vote, had clung on for almost a week after a united opposition first tried to remove him.

Khan’s ouster came after a fallout with Pakistan’s army over a range of issues, including interference in military promotions, his rocky relationship with the U.S. and management of the economy that saw inflation rise at the second fastest pace in Asia. Pakistan’s military has ruled the country for almost half of its 75-year history, and no prime minister has completed a full term in that time.

On Sunday, he repeated allegations that a foreign conspiracy was behind the regime change.  “The freedom struggle begins again today,” he said via his Twitter account, which is followed by more than 15 million and still describes him as Prime Minister of Pakistan in his biography section.

Parliament members will convene on Monday to pick his replacement, after Khan rallied supporters in cities across the nation on Sunday night against what he called “U.S.-backed regime change.”

Media reports stated, the vote that ousted Khan went ahead after the powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, met Khan, as criticism mounted over the delay to the parliamentary process. The Supreme Court has also ordered parliament to convene and hold the vote. The military has ruled the country of 220 million people for almost half its nearly 75-year history.

The military had viewed Khan and his conservative agenda favorably when he won the election in 2018, but that support waned after a falling-out over the appointment of the influential military intelligence chief and economic troubles that led to the largest interest rate rise in decades this week.

Khan had antagonized the United States throughout his tenure, welcoming the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year and more recently accusing the United States of being behind the attempt to oust him. Washington dismissed the accusation.

He thanked all the opposition leaders after the vote and promised that his new administration, if confirmed, would look forward. “This alliance will rebuild Pakistan and we will not indulge in the political victimization of the opponents,” he said.

“I don’t want to discuss the bitterness of the past. We want to forget them and move forward. We will not take revenge or do an injustice; we will not send people to jail for no reason. Law and justice will take their own course,” Sharif added. Shehbaz Sharif said Khan’s departure was a chance for a new beginning.

Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, MD, MBA, FACHE is appointed as the Chief Medical Officer of Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: NVOS) and the New President of Novomerica Health Group

Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, MD, MBA, FACHE, Best Selling Author and Publisher of The Universal News Network, (www.theunn.com) has been appointed as the Chief Medical Officer of Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: NVOS) and the New President of Novomerica Health Group, Inc on April 5th, 2022. In addition, Dr, Chalil will maintain his leadership of Clinical Consultants International LLC (CCI).

While announcing the appointment, Robert Mattacchione, Novo’s CEO and Board Chairman of Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. stated, “Adding CCI and the impressive CCI team of highly respected, proven leaders in the medical community, led by Dr. Chalil, is a significant milestone intended to accelerate Novo’s expansion to both the U.S. and other global markets. As the healthcare sector worldwide is facing increasingly complex demands with incredible opportunities to leverage technology and new service models, Dr. Chalil and the CCI team are the perfect partner to accelerate the growth of Novo’s decentralized healthcare delivery business model.

Dr. Chalil and his team share Novo’s forward-thinking vision and combined with CCI’s exceptional talent undoubtedly make CCI a strong addition to the Novo portfolio of companies.” Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. is pioneering a holistic approach to patient-first health and wellness through a multidisciplinary healthcare ecosystem of services and product innovation.

Under the terms of Novo’s acquisition, CCI will be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company. CCI has an impressive international team of physician leaders, diplomats, hospital administrators, and regulatory/FDA experts.

“Working with Rob and the Novo team over the last year, I’ve witnessed firsthand Novo’s commitment to be a leader in the ongoing transformation of healthcare delivery worldwide,” said Dr. Chalil. “I cannot think of a better partnership for CCI and the CCI team and it is my honor to join the Novo team with this acquisition. I am excited to work closely with Rob and the Novo team to implement our shared vision for the path forward to improving access to high-quality healthcare services and products worldwide.”

Founded in 2006, the highly respected CCI senior strategic advisor team includes Ambassador Pradeep K. Kapur, IFS (IIT Delhi), former Indian Ambassador to several countries including Chile, Dr. Zach P. Zachariah, MD, Medical Director of  Health Cardiology, and the longest-serving member of the Florida Board of Medicine, Saju George, CEO for Garden City Hospital and Prime Healthcare’s midwestern region, and other professionals with extensive healthcare and hospital management experience.

Dr.Chalil served as Chairman of Novo’s Medical Advisory Board since April ‘2021. Dr. Chalil is an author of several scientific and research papers in international publications. He is also the Chairman of the Complex Health Systems Advisory Board, H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, and a member of Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine Executive Leadership Council.

A veteran of the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, he is board certified in healthcare management. He has been awarded a Fellowship by the American College of Healthcare Executives, an international professional society of more than 40,000 healthcare executives who lead hospitals, healthcare systems, and other healthcare organizations. Dr.Chalil has held roles of increasing responsibility at DBV Technologies, Boehringer Ingelheim, Abbott Laboratories, and Hoffmann-La Roche.

Additionally, Dr.Chalil is the former Chairman of the Indo-American Press Club. He is an expert in U.S. healthcare policy and a strong advocate for patient-centered care. A strong proponent of providing healthcare access to everyone, Dr. Chalil’s new book, Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare, is on Amazon’s Best Sellers List.

Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Join More Diverse And Conservative High Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will join a Supreme Court that is both more diverse than ever and more conservative than it’s been since the 1930s.

She’s likely to be on the losing end of a bunch of important cases, including examinations of the role of race in college admissions and voting rights that the high court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, will take up next term.

Jackson, 51, is the first Black woman confirmed to the Supreme Court following Thursday’s 53-47 vote by the Senate. She won’t join the court for several months, until Justice Stephen Breyer retires once the court wraps up its work for the summer — including its verdict on whether to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion rights.

When Jackson takes the bench as a justice for the first time, in October, she will be one of four women and two Black justices — both high court firsts.

And the nine-member court as a whole will be younger than it’s been for nearly 30 years, when Breyer, now 83, came on board.

Among the younger justices are three appointees of former President Donald Trump, and the court’s historic diversity won’t obscure its conservative tilt.

In Breyer’s final term, the conservative justices already have left their mark even before deciding major cases on abortion, guns, religion and climate change. By 5-4 or 6-3 votes, they allowed an unusual Texas law to remain in effect that bans abortions after roughly six weeks; stopped the

Biden administration from requiring large employers to have a workforce that is vaccinated against COVID-19 or be masked and tested; and left in place redrawn Alabama congressional districts that a lower court with two Trump appointees found shortchanged Black voters in violation of federal law.

Jackson’s replacement of Breyer, for whom she once worked as a law clerk, won’t alter that Supreme Court math.

“She’s just going to be swimming against the tide every day. That’s a lot to take on,” said Robin Walker Sterling, a Northwestern University law professor.

But Jackson’s presence could make a difference in the perspective she brings and how she expresses herself in her opinions, said Payvand Ahdout, a University of Virginia law professor.

Jackson, who was raised in Miami, may see the high court’s cases about race “from the lens of being a Black woman who grew up in the South. She has an opportunity early on to show how representation matters,” Ahdout said.

During her Senate confirmation hearings, Jackson pledged to sit out the court’s consideration of Harvard’s admissions program, since she is a member of its board of overseers. But the court could split off a second case involving a challenge to the University of North Carolina’s admissions process, which might allow her to weigh in on the issue.

“Historically, the court goes to some length to try to get as much participation as possible. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two dealt with separately,” said Ahdout, who was a clerk to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg the last time the court dealt with race in college admissions, in 2016. Just seven justices took part in that case, because Justice Antonin Scalia died before it was decided and Justice Elena Kagan had been involved as a Justice Department official before joining the court.

For now, Jackson might not have much to do. She remains a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington, but she stepped away from cases there when President Joe Biden nominated her to the Supreme Court in February and will continue to do so, a White House official said.

That could reduce the number of times Jackson has to recuse herself from any of her old cases that later make their way to the Supreme Court.

Breyer said in January that he would retire once his successor had been confirmed, but not before the end of the term. With a bare Senate majority, Democrats didn’t want to risk waiting until the summer for confirmation hearings and a vote.

That leaves Jackson in a situation that is “unprecedented in modern times,” said Marin Levy, a Duke University law professor who studies the federal judiciary.

Most new justices begin work a few days after they are confirmed, Levy said. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in to the court just a few hours after his tumultuous Senate vote.

Jackson could spend time arranging for her clerks and other staff for the Supreme Court, and closing down her current office.

But she won’t have to find new housing or upend the lives of her husband and children. Her new workplace is less than a mile from the court of appeals.

AAPI Elects New Leaders For 2022-23 And Beyond

(Chicago, IL: April 10, 2022) “We have successfully concluded our elections for the year 2022-23 for AAPI leadership positions,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, current President of AAPI, and Dr. Sajani Shah, AAPI’s Chief Election Officer and Immediate Past Chair BOT, jointly announced here today. “We thank the election officers Dr. Seema Arora, Dr. Sharad Lakhanpal, Dr. Sunita Kanumury, Dr. Arun Pramanik, Dr. Ashok Jain, and all of you for participating in the Election.”

While thanking the tens of thousands of Indian American physicians, who are actively holding membership at the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), and participated in the election process, Dr. Gotiumukula said, “I want to thank AAPI members who enthusiastically participated in the AAPI’s electronic voting process that was held over a period of nearly a month and have elected a new and dynamic team to lead AAPI, the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States in the coming year and beyond.”

While announcing the results of the election after months-long campaigning for several offices to the national body and regional chapters, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chief Election Officer, 2022 said, Dr. Satheesh Kathula has been elected as the Vice President of AAPI, Dr. Meherbala Medavaram was elected as the Secretary and Dr. Sumul Raval was elected Treasurer of AAPI for the year 2022-23. Dr. Kavita Gupta, Dr. Sunil Kaza, and Dr. Malti Mehta have been elected to AAPI’s Board of Trustees for a two-year term.

Dr. V. Ranga will serve as the Chair, AAPI Board of Trustees for the year, 2022-23. Giving representation and strengthening the voice of young physicians of Indian origin, AAPI members elected Dr. Pooja Kinkhabwala as the President, AAPI Young Physicians Section (YPS) and elected Dr. Ammu Susheela as the President of AAPI- Medical Student/Residents & Fellows Section (MSRF).

“I feel very satisfied that the election committee has been able to do well in providing a very FAIR election to everyone, following all bylaws, while dealing with big challenges in implementation of this electronic process, taking extra security precautions, anti-hacking measures, fixing glitches, resolving disputes, anxieties, and concerns of the members,” Dr. Seema Arora, Immediate Past Election Officer, during whose term, the new electronic voting was introduced a year ago, said.

Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, Immediate Past President of AAPI thanked the election committee members, and the entire Executive Committee led by Dr. Gotimukula for making this election smooth and transparent. Dr. Suresh Reddy, former President of AAPI congratulated the winners in the AAPI elections, and wished the new team under the leadership of Dr. Kolli the very best.

“As the incoming President of AAPI, I would like to congratulate my incoming new team for the fiscal year 2022-23,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli, who will assume charge as the President of AAPI during the 40th annual convention in San Antonio, TX in June this year. “I’m very honored, and consider myself fortunate to be bestowed with the responsibility of leading the four decades old strong organization with the cooperation and collaboration of an excellent group of dedicated, hardworking, and loyal officers and executive committee members who are with me to take AAPI to newer heights,” he added. Dr. Kolli did not have to contest the election this year, as he has been serving as the President-Elect during the past year.

Dr. Anjana Sammadar, who has been serving AAPI as the Vice President in the current year also did not face elections, as she automatically becomes the President-Elect of AAPI for the coming year. In addition to Dr. Samaddar, Dr. Ravi Kolli will have a dynamic and diverse team comprising of Dr. Satheesh Kathula as Vice President; Dr. Meherbala Medavaram as the Secretary; Dr. Sumul Raval as the Treasurer; Dr. V. Ranga – as the Chair, Board of Trustees; Dr. Pooja Kinkhabwala – President, Young Physicians Section; and, Dr. Ammu Susheela, President, Medical Student/Residents & Fellows Section. Dr. Gotimukula will continue to guide AAPI as the Immediate past President of AAPI.

“I am looking forward to working towards strengthening the goals and mission of AAPI and to help make AAPI a healthcare leader in US and globally and work in the best interests of our Physicians and our community here in the US and server our motherland, India,” added Dr. Kolli.

While congratulating the newly elected leaders to the Executive Committee, Dr. Anjana Samaddar, the President-Elect in 2022-23 said here in a statement: “I want to congratulate all the winners of the election. I want to especially thank all the candidates for their passion and dedication to serving AAPI and regardless of the outcome, we need you as a valuable team member of our beloved AAPI.  ”

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, who won the election to be the next Vice President of AAPI, said, “I am humbled and honored to be bestowed with this responsibility and will work to the greatest of my abilities to reach our goals, addressing the challenges, and advance the issues important to our members. We will work together to promote our values of professionalism, collegiality, and excellence in patient care and enhance AAPI’s reputation as a premier professional organization offering educational programs and advocacy.”

Dr. Meherbala Medavaram, Secretary-Elect of AAPI said, “I would like to thank all AAPI members from the bottom of my heart for this honor and assure that I will sincerely work for the betterment of our beloved organization, AAPI. Once again, I thank everyone for the opportunity to serve.” She expressed gratitude to the Election Committee, who “successfully organized this election, with great participation from AAPI members.”

Dr. Sumul Raval, the newly elected Treasurer of AAPI said, “I am honored to be elected as the Treasurer of national AAPI. I appreciate and thank all of you for your trust in me. I will try everything in me to unite AAPI. Your guidance, support, and vote made this possible. This win belongs to all our members for trusting our vision of growth & progress. I hope to receive your continued support and love.”

Dr. Kusum Punjabi, the outgoing BOT Chair thanked the Election Committee for their meticulous planning and organizing the elections with integrity and fairness. She said, “I congratulate the winners and the new leadership who are entrusted with the responsibility of leading it in the year 2022-23 and beyond. I wish them the very best and my whole-hearted support.”

While conceding the election to Dr. Medavaram to be the next Secretary of AAPI, Dr. Krishan Kumar said, “Thank you so much for supporting me all these years.  I am glad to see the healthy spirit of all candidates (winners or not) for the association.  I will continue to serve this great association, AAPI, until my last breath. AAPI is a big family and full of talented people.  I cherish every moment of being part of it.”

In his message, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, who was the past Secretary and conceded the election to Dr. Kathula, said, “I am thankful to my Supporters who gave me their precious vote honoring my 25 years of service for AAPI. Next year we will work harder and show the world that dedication and hard work for the betterment of AAPI, will eventually prevail and we will succeed. I congratulate all the winners. I wish Satheesh the best of luck as he moves forward with his new responsibility.”

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.

Dr. Gotimukula, while reminding the members of AAPI said, “Since its inception in 1982, AAPI has been in the forefront, representing a conglomeration of more than 100,000 practicing physicians in the United States, seeking to be the united voice for the physicians of Indian origin. I hope and wish that the new Team under Dr. Ravi Kolli will continue the noble mission and strengthen our efforts to make AAPI reach greater heights.”  For more details, please visit: www.appiusa,org

AAPI ELECTIONS 2022 – RESULTS

The following are the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees & Regional Directors for the year 2022-23.

President Dr. Ravi Kolli
President-Elect Dr. Anjana Samadder
Vice President Dr. Satheesh Kathula
Secretary Dr. Meherbala Medavaram
Treasurer Dr. Sumul Raval
Immediate Past President Dr. Anupama Gotimukula
Chair, AAPI Board of Trustees Dr. V. Ranga
President, AAPI YPS Dr. Pooja Kinkhabwala
President, AAPI MSRF Dr. Ammu Susheela
Regional Director, Pacific Region Dr. Vandana Agarwal
Regional Director, Mountain Region Dr. Harnath Singh
Regional Director, NW Central Region Dr. Raghuveer Kura
Regional Director, SW Central Region Dr. Anil Tibrewal
Regional Director, NE Central-I Region Dr. Rama Medavaram
Regional Director, NE Central-II Region Dr. Suresh Sharoff
Regional Director, SE Central Region Dr. Pavankumar Panchavati
Regional Director, New England Region Dr. Saraswathi Muppana
Regional Director, Mid Atlantic-I Region Dr. Rakesh K, Mehta
Regional Director Mid Atlantic-II Region Dr. Hetal Gor
Regional Director, South Atlantic Region TBA
Regional Director, South Region Dr. Vijay Maurya
Board of Trustee Dr. V. Ranga (Chair)
Board of Trustee Dr. Jagdish Gupta
Board of Trustee Dr. Raghu Lolabhattu
Board of Trustee Dr. Sapna Aggarwal
Board of Trustee Dr. Lokesh Edara
Board of Trustee Dr. Srinagesh Paluvoi
Board of Trustee Dr. Kavita Gupta
Board of Trustee Dr. Sunil Kaza
Board of Trustee Dr. Malti Mehta
Immediate Past BOT Chair Dr. Kusum Punjabi
YPS Representative on Board Dr. Soumya Neravetla
MSRF Representative on Board Dr. Ayesha Singh

Opposition Grows To Imposing Hindi On Indian States

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent statement that time has come to make official language Hindi, an important part of the country’s unity, which has come under severe criticism from main Opposition leaders in India, several state leaders and Bollywood and media persons from across the nation.

While the main opposition parties called it an assault on India’s pluralism and asserting they will thwart the move to impose “Hindi imperialism,” Oscar-winner and one of India’s top music directors A R Rahman has tweeted a poster highlighting the significance of Tamil and what the language means to Tamilians. The tweet is being seen as a strong response to Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent statement on Hindi being an alternative to English.

Rahman tweeted the poster of a woman holding a staff with the Tamil letter ‘a’ (lazha) on it. Interestingly, the letter is unique to Tamil language. The poster, titled ‘Tamizhanangu’, also had lines from a poem by revolutionary poet Bharathidasan. The line, “Inba Thamizh Engal Urimai Sempayirukku Vaer” (Delightful Tamil is the root of the staple crop of our rights). Thousands have liked the tweet that Rahman has put out with several other top writers, actors, journalists retweeting the tweet to voice their support for Rahman’s statement.

India’s multilingual Bollywood actor Prakash Raj has responded strongly to Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent remarks that Hindi should be accepted as an alternative to English. “Amit Shah ji, I want to know where do you want us to speak Hindi, learn Hindi,” asked the actor. The actor joins us on this episode of ‘Left, Right and Centre’.

India’s main opposition party, Congress accused Shah of trying to impose Hindi, and said in doing so he is doing a disservice to the language. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh contended Hindi is ‘Raj Bhasha’ (official language) and not ‘Rashtra Bhasha’ (national language), as Rajnath Singh had noted in Parliament when he was the home minister. “Hindi imperialism will be the death knell for India. I’m very comfortable with Hindi, but I don’t want it rammed down anybody’s throat. Amit Shah is doing a disservice to Hindi by imposing it,” Ramesh said on Twitter.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the home minister has tried to sermonize about Hindi which he should not. He also alleged that by raking up the issue of Hindi, the home minister is also trying to divert people’s attention from inflation and price rise. “Don’t conflagrate…don’t give us sermons,” he said.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, whose DMK has been at the forefront of anti-Hindi agitations which often turned violent, said Shah’s thrust on Hindi went against India’s ‘integrity and pluralism’. Reacting to Shah’s April 7 statement, Stalin said it will wreck the nation’s integrity. The BJP top brass is continuously working towards causing damage to India’s pluralism, Stalin, who is also the DMK president, said on Twitter.

The main opposition in Tamil Nadu, AIADMK said people may learn Hindi on their own volition but imposition of the language is unacceptable. Quoting Dravidian icon, the late C N Annadurai, AIADMK top leader O Panneerselvam said if needed, people willing to learn Hindi may do so voluntarily. However, foisting Hindi on people is never acceptable, the AIADMK coordinator tweeted.

A TMC spokesman said, BJP’s agenda of “one nation, one language and one religion” will remain unfulfilled. “If Amit Shah and the BJP try to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states, it will be resisted. The people of this country, where there is so much diversity, will never accept such a thing. “Even India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had said that Hindi will not be imposed on non-Hindi speaking states until they are willing to accept it,” senior TMC leader Sougata Roy said.

In India’s restive northeastern region, where people speak at least 220 languages or dialects, separatist rebel groups have always detested the use of Hindi, calling it an instrument of so-called “colonial Delhi” to suppress indigenous people and their cultures. In the past, many Hindi-speakers were gunned down by outlawed groups.

Shah’s recent remark has sparked a huge backlash in the region. The Asom Sahitya Sabha, Assam’s apex literary body, said in a statement, “The Union home minister should have instead taken steps to develop Assamese and other indigenous languages. Such steps spell a bleak future for Assamese and all indigenous languages in the Northeast. The Sabha demands that the decision to make Hindi mandatory till Class X be revoked.”

The influential North-East Students’ Organisation (NESO), an umbrella body of the various student outfits in the region, said Hindi can be an optional subject, but they are against any kind of “imposition”.

Noted academician Pabitra Sarkar claimed that the statement was “premature” and “unacceptable”. He said, “This is a very premature statement made without taking into cognizance the views of others. There is a history of resistance in southern India against the imposition of Hindi.”

Presiding over the 37th meeting of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee in New Delhi, Amit Shah had said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided that the medium of running the government is the official language and this will definitely increase the importance of Hindi, according to a statement issued by the Union Home Ministry. He informed the members that now 70 per cent of the agenda of the Cabinet is prepared in Hindi.

Shah said now the time has come to make the official language Hindi an important part of the unity of the country, adding Hindi should be accepted as an alternative to English and not to local languages.

This isn’t the first time A R Rahman has commented on the language debate. In June 2019, when there were plans to make a three-language policy mandatory for all states, Rahman had tweeted: “AUTONOMOUS | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary,” with web link of the word’s meaning in the dictionary. His tweet triggered a popular hashtag, ‘#autonomousTamilNadu’ by his fans worldwide.

Similarly, when the Centre decided to drop the provision of compulsory teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states, Rahman had tweeted in praise of Tamil Nadu’s two language policy: “Good decision. Hindi is not compulsory in Tamil Nadu. The draft has been corrected.”

The two-language policy that is being followed in Tamil Nadu was born out of a peculiar pride in the Mother Tongue, Tamil, which is based on an assertion that Tamil is the oldest language and cannot be placed lesser than Hindi or any other language in India. For majoritarian reasons and a perception that a single native language will make the governance easier, Delhi had been consistently pushing for Hindi on various levels for several decades. But most Tamil parties and almost all Tamil politicians continue to resist efforts to impose or bring in a single national language in the country, Hindi.

During Easter Week, Pope Francis Pushes For Peace In Ukraine

Pope Francis opened Holy Week Sunday with a call for an Easter truce in Ukraine to make room for a negotiated peace, highlighting the need for leaders to “make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”

Celebrating Palm Sunday Mass before crowds in St. Peter’s Square for the first time since the pandemic, Pope Francis called for “weapons to be laid down to begin an Easter truce, not to reload weapons and resume fighting, no! A truce to reach peace through real negotiations.”

Francis did not refer directly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the reference was clear, and he has repeatedly denounced the war and the suffering brought to innocent civilians. During the traditional Sunday blessing following Palm Sunday Mass, the pontiff said leaders should be “willing to make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”

“In fact, what a victory would that be, who plants a flag under a pile of rubble?” During his Palm Sunday homily, the pontiff denounced “the folly of war” that leads people to commit “senseless acts of cruelty.”

“When we resort to violence  we lose sight of why we are in the world and even end up committing senseless acts of cruelty. We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time,” he said. Francis lamented “the unjust death of husbands and sons” “refugees fleeing bombs” “young people deprived of a future”  and “soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters.”

After two years of celebrating Palm Sunday Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica without a crowd due to pandemic distancing measures, the solemn celebration returned to the square outside. Tens of thousands pilgrims and tourists clutched olive branches and braided palms emblematic of the ceremony that recalls Jesus’ return to Jerusalem.

Traditionally, the pope leads a Palm Sunday procession through St. Peter’s Square before celebrating Mass. Francis has been suffering from a strained ligament in his right knee that has caused him to limp, and he was driven in a black car to the altar, which he then reached with the help of an aide. He left the Mass on the open-top popemobile, waving to the faithful in the piazza and along part of the via della Conciliazione.

Palm Sunday opens Holy Week leading up to Easter, which this year falls on April 17, and features the Good Friday Way of the Cross Procession.

Hacking Attempts By Russian Spies Found By Microsoft

US tech giant Microsoft on Apr 8 said that it has disrupted Russian hackers who attempted to infiltrate Ukrainian media organizations.
The spies were attempting to break into Ukrainian, EU and US targets, according to the company. Microsoft attributes the attacks to a group it calls “Strontium”.

In a blog post on Microsoft’s website, the firm said that a group was using internet domains in an effort to spy on US and EU government bodies and thinktanks, as well as a number of Ukrainian institutions including media organizations. Microsoft did not provide further details on who the targets were.

Microsoft said that it was taking legal and technical action to seize control of domains controlled by Strontium, and had obtained a court order that allowed it to take over seven domains on Apr 6.

Microsoft used a US court order to disable seven internet domains that a hacking group linked with Russian intelligence was using to try to infiltrate Ukrainian media organizations, reported CNN.

It’s the second time this week that a powerful US corporation or government agency has disclosed the use of a court order to target hackers accused of working for Russia’s military intelligence directorate, GRU.

The moves reflect US officials’ ongoing concerns about potential Russian retaliatory cyberattacks against US targets and a more aggressive strategy to try to thwart state-backed hacking operations.

The Justice Department revealed on Apr 6 that it had used a court order to disrupt a network of thousands of hacked computers controlled by another GRU-linked hacking group that could have been used in a cyberattack.

That network of infected computers, known as a botnet, “was a threat to US businesses, particularly the ones who were compromised, and it required action given the current threat environment,” the Justice Department official told reporters.

AAPI, IMA, And Tanvir Foundation Hold HPV Vaccination Camp In Hyderabad To Prevent Cervical Cancer

Hyderabad: April 11th, 2022: American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), in collaboration with the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Telangana and Tanvir Foundation in mutual collaboration administered free HPV vaccines to the poor and deserving girls and women at the local Tanvir Hospital in Srinagar Colony, Hyderabad in India on Sunday, April 3rd, 2022 with the objective of preventing cervical cancer, a leading cause of cancer deaths among women in India. This is the second stage of the two part vaccine campaign administered as part of AAPI’s efforts to create awareness and provide tangible support on this preventable illness for young women in India.

“We at AAPI, in keeping with our efforts and initiatives to educate, create awareness and provide support on disease prevention, AAPI is happy to be part of the Cervical Cancer Vaccine Awareness Program,”  Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President said. “The initial camp was organized on January 9th at Tanvir Hospital in Hyderabad as part of APPI’s 15th annual Global Healthcare Summit (GHS) 2022 held Avasa in Hyderabad, India,” and was inaugurated in person by Dr. Gotimukula and several other AAPPI leaders. Nearly 100 women were given the first dose. However, Dr. Gotimukula inaugurated the Free Vaccination Camp virtually from the United States on March 3rd.

The 2nd phase of the free vaccination camp was inaugurated with the lighting of the traditional lamp by IMA’s Telangana President Sampath Rao, IMA North President Raghunandan, Secretary Surendranath, Dr. Meeta Singh, and Dr. Naunihal Singh. AAPI Advisor Dr. Dwarakanatha Reddy inaugurated the vaccination camp. ““If vaccination programs are effectively implemented, approximately 90 percent of invasive cervical cancer cases worldwide could be prevented, in addition to the majority of precancerous lesions,” Dr. Dwarakanatha Reddy said.

“In coordination with the local organizers, AAPI donated the funds for the HPV Vaccination, a total of 200 doses for the vaccine for 100 children from the state of Telangana,” said Dr. Meher Medavaram, an organizer of the program, and the newly elected Secretary of AAPI. “AAPI’s this new initiative through education and awareness programs is aimed at helping save millions of lives in India,” she added.

Usually, cervical cancer develops slowly over time, and another powerful preventive measure is Pap test screening, a procedure during which cells are collected from the surface of the cervix and examined. The Pap test can both detect cancer at an early stage, when treatment outcomes tend to be better, and detect precancerous abnormalities, which can then be treated to prevent them from developing into cancers.

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI, said, “Cervical Cancer is preventable through Vaccination and Early Pap smears and cervical examinations. Justifiably so, one of our preventive campaign goals this year has been to provide education and prevention of Cervical Cancer in India.”

Dr. Anjana Samaddar, current Vice President of AAPI said, “Cervical cancer could be the first cancer EVER in the world to be eliminated, if: 90 % of girls are vaccinated; 70% of women are screened; and, 90% of women with cervical disease receive treatment. This is an important step towards reaching goal,” she pointed out.

While elaborating the objectives of the Summit, Dr. Satheesh Kathula, the newly elected Vice President of AAPI, said, “In addition to Cervical cancer, GHS 2022 has provided education  on: Chronic diseases which can be prevented- notably diabetes, cardiovascular, hypertension, COPD, oncology, maternal and infant mortality, lifestyle changes,  geriatrics, management of neurological emergencies, ENLS, a certification course”.

According to The American Cancer Society, Cervical Cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. The cervical cancer death rate dropped significantly with the increased use of the Pap test for screening. Cervical cancer is among a number of cancers that can be caused by infections with pathogens – bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

“Through Continuing Medical Education and non-CME seminars by experts in their fields, AAPI provides 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.”

Once a leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Today, screening and prevention have greatly reduced the impact of this form of cancer. Increasing screening and prevention are key components of the effort to eradicate cervical cancer. Since almost all cases of the disease are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, vaccines that protect against the virus could prevent the vast majority of cases. Moreover, regular Pap tests can catch – and lead to treatment of – the disease at the precancerous stage.

Describing some of the other ongoing initiatives by AAPI for prevention of illness in India, Dr. Sujeeth R. Punnam, Chair of AAPI’s Covid Relief Committee, pointed to the second in a series of Chemoluminescence Immunoanalyzer (CLIA) donated by AAPI, that has been commissioned last month in Stanley Medical College Hospital in Chennai, India.

“Chemoluminescence Immunoanalyzer (CLIA) and Beckman Coulter UniCel Dxl 800 access Immunoassay system has a throughput of 200 tests/hour and will make point of care testing like covid antibody tests, Ferritin, D Dimer, troponin, IL6, procalcitonin, CRP etc. easy. Each of these costs around $80,000. We are grateful to several AAPI members who have generously contributed to AAPI’s Covid Relief efforts, helping us raise over $5 Million.” A CME meeting was organized by the Biochemistry department to the staff as part of the event.

Expressing confidence, Dr. Gotimukula, the 4th ever Woman President in the four decades long history of AAPI, the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, said, “Together we can all bring the awareness in the community to prevent Cervical Cancer in India which is 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in women!” For more information, please visit www.aapiusa.org/ https://summit.aapiusa.org

Rohun Reddy Is Winner Of ABA Annual First Amendment And Media Law Diversity Moot Court Competition At Northwestern

Rohun Reddy, a 2L JD-MBA student at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law / Kellogg School of Management and the son of Leela and Dr. Suresh Reddy, former President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) won the Best Brief overall in the competition, one of the top three prizes of the day at the American Bar Association’s 14th Annual First Amendment and Media Law Diversity Moot Court Competition.

Rohun, whose interest has been about the intersection of technology, media, and law won the prize along with the co-participant, Michael Choi (JD-MBA ’23) at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.” “The ABA First Amendment and Media Law moot court provided me an opportunity to hone my advocacy skills in an area of law that I am deeply passionate about,” Rohun said after winning the competitive award. “I believe that our brief has been so strong because of the natural passion that Michael and I have for First Amendment law and the mentorship that our coach, Leita Walker, provided us through each step of the process.”

Expressing grateful “for the unwavering support that my parents have provided me not just in this competition but throughout my academic career,” Rohun said,  “I appreciate that competitions such as this one are available to help introduce other students from underrepresented backgrounds in law to careers in First Amendment and media law.”

At law school, Rohun serves as Co-President of the Arts and Entertainment Law Society and is an editor on the Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property. Rohun spent his 1L summer externing for the Honorable David O. Carter of the Central District of California and will be spending his 2L summer at Paul, Weiss in New York. Before law school, Rohun interned at several entertainment companies, such as Viacom and FilmNation Entertainment, and spent several years as a technology and media consultant at Activate Consulting in New York. Rohun holds a B.F.A. in Film/Television from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.”

The annual competition at Northwestern was designed primarily to introduce minority law students to the practice of media law and to lawyers active in the communications law bar. The competition offered cash prizes for superior performance in appellate briefing and oral argument. The hypothetical case at the center of the competition involved timely issues of national significance in the areas affecting communications law. Briefs were judged blindly by a panel of experienced media-law practitioners. Choi and Reddy wrote the highest-scoring brief and each team member received $1,000.

Held via video conference, the Moot Court finals were conducted by three distinguished jurists: Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals; Justice Carla Wong McMillian, Georgia Supreme Court; and Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

“This award means a lot to me because it is proof that the experts in the field have recognized the hard work that Rohun and I put into understanding the complex sphere of First Amendment and media law and structuring our legal arguments in a persuasive manner,” Choi said. “I am also interested in eventually pursuing a career in media and entertainment law, so this unique moot court experience was an important stepping stone towards my long-term aspirations as an attorney.”

Their mentor, Leita Walker, is a litigator and trial lawyer at Ballard Spahr’s Media and Entertainment Law Group. Other winners of the competition included Amanda N. Marino, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, who won best oralist; and Alexandria Faura and Charles Lam, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, who were awarded the winning team.

Summarizing the experiences of the efforts, collaboration and the success, Rohun exclaimed: “I learned so much from my mentor-coach, the other competitors, and our highly accomplished judges, and I am so grateful for the connections I made throughout the process. [It] has definitely been one of my favorite law school experiences!”

AIA Illinois Chapter Elects Chapter Executive Committee

Chicago IL: The members of the Illinois Chapter of the Association of Indians in America in a recently held election elected the Executive Committee of the chapter for the year 2022-2023 consisting of the following members: President – Hina Trivedi; Vice President – Lucy Pandey & Shaheen Sayeed; Treasurer: Sujata Sharma; Secretary: Nilabh Dubey; Joint Secretary: Shabana Rahman; Members at Large: Ram Bhaskaran, Chandani Duvvuri, Praveen Konduru, Akshay Patel, Malla Reddy, Pandey Sahai, and Nipa Shah.

 

The inaugural function of the chapter was held in Shikara Restaurant in Downers Grove, Illinois on March 20, 2022. The Chair of the Election Committee, Dr. Ghanshyam Pandey introduced the newly elected members of the Executive Committee, as a new committee is elected every other year. He congratulated the members for their commitment to AIA and work for the progress of the association and the chapter.

 

The Association of Indians in America is the oldest Indian organization in the United States. It was established in 1967 with the anticipation that as a change of the immigration law, there will be greater immigration of Indian people to the United States. One of the objectives was to help and facilitate the participation and the assimilation of the incoming Indian immigrants to the United States society in the country of their choice. Ever since, the Association has worked on several important issues, such as granting of minority status for the Indians in the United States, counting of Asian Indians as a separate entity, staring in 1980 US Census, participation in the reform of immigration laws. The Association has several chapters across the United States with individual membership to the Association, and the chapters are involved not only in community activities but also in social, educational and cultural activities of the diaspora. In keeping with these objectives, the Illinois Chapter has been organizing many community and cultural and educational programs in Illinois.

 

The incoming president, Miss Hina Trivedi then took over the proceedings of the chapter and discussed the programs and activities of the Illinois Chapter for the coming year. She said that AIA has been conducting at least three major programs every year which include Youth Talent Show, a youth dance competition program, the Independence Day Celebration at the Daley Plaza, and the Gandhi Jayanti Celebration sometimes with the Annual Banquet. She said that the chapter team will continue with these activities, as these are the signature programs of the AIA, Illinois Chapter.

 

Members of the committee then discussed details of each program and it was decided that the Youth Dance Competition Program, Youth Festival will be held sometimes in July of this year. The Independence Day will be celebrated on August 12, 2022, at the Daley Plaza in Chicago and some dignitaries, including the Consul General of India will be invited. In addition, the Independence Day program, as in the previous years, will also include a cultural program depicting the culture and heritage of India, exposing our heritage to the American people.

 

Gandhi Jayanti is one of the most important programs of the AIA, Illinois chapter, which started in 1985 and the AIA, Illinois Chapter has been conducting this Gandhi program ever since, and many high-level dignitaries have participated in Gandhi Jayanti program as speakers and as guest, including Mrs. Ila Gandhi, the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. Mr. Kamla, the Director of Gandhi Foundation in Washington among other distinguished speakers. The Illinois Chapter celebrated the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti a couple of years back in which the then Consul General of India, Mr. Dalala, as the Chief Guest.

 

Miss Hina Trivedi then also said that in addition to the three signature programs of the chapter this year, the chapter will also conduct a business seminar and festival. Some of the members of the Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees volunteered to help in organizing this business program.

India’s Apex Court Upholds BJP Govt’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act

The Supreme Court on Friday, April 8th affirmed the validity of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment (FCRA) Act, 2020, which imposes new conditions on the receipt and use of funds by NGOs.

A bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar upheld the 2020 amendments made to the FCRA Act, 2010. The detailed judgment in the case will be uploaded on the top court website later in the day.

The Centre had told the Supreme Court that there exists no fundamental right to receive unbridled foreign contributions without any regulation, while defending the amendments made in 2020 to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.

The MHA emphasized that FCRA aim was to ensure foreign contribution does not adversely impinge upon the functioning of parliamentary institutions, political associations, and academic, and other voluntary organisations as well as individuals in India.

The petitioners had challenged the amendments, which included newly added sections 12 and 17, which state that the foreign contributions must be deposited in the FCRA account created in the specified branch of the scheduled bank, which was later notified as State Bank of India, New Delhi branch.

The petitioners claimed the amendments were arbitrary and stringent, which made the functioning of NGOs extremely difficult.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a 355-page affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, said Parliament has enacted the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, laying down a clear legislative policy of strict controls over foreign contributions for certain activities in the country.

The MHA said the “legislation has also prohibited acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”. The affidavit was settled by Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, who was assisted by advocate Kanu Agrawal.

Petitioners in the matter were — Noel Harper and Nigel Mills of Share and Care Foundation in Andhra Pradesh and Joseph Lizy and Annamma Joachim of National Workers Welfare Trust in Telangana.

No Obituary For Earth: Scientists Fight Climate Doom Talk

It’s not the end of the world. It only seems that way. Climate change is going to get worse, but as gloomy as the latest scientific reports are, including today’s from the United Nations, scientist after scientist stresses that curbing global warming is not hopeless. The science says it is not game over for planet Earth or humanity. Action can prevent some of the worst if done soon, they say.

After decades of trying to get the public’s attention, spur action by governments and fight against organized movements denying the science, climate researchers say they have a new fight on their hands: doomism. It’s the feeling that nothing can be done, so why bother. It’s young people publicly swearing off having children because of climate change.

University of Maine climate scientist Jacquelyn Gill noticed in 2018 fewer people telling her climate change isn’t real and more “people that we now call doomers that you know believe that nothing can be done.” Gill says it is just not true. “I refuse to write off or write an obituary for something that’s still alive,” Gill told The Associated Press, referring to the Earth. “We are not through a threshold or past the threshold. There’s no such thing as pass-fail when it comes to the climate crisis.”

“It’s really, really, really hard to walk people back from that ledge,” Gill said. Doomism “is definitely a thing,” said Wooster College psychology professor Susan Clayton, who studies climate change anxiety and spoke at a conference in Norway last week that addressed the issue. “It’s a way of saying ‘I don’t have to go to the effort of making changes because there’s nothing I can do anyway.’”

Gill and six other scientists who talked with The Associated Press about doomism aren’t sugarcoating the escalating harm to the climate from accumulating emissions. But that doesn’t make it hopeless, they said.

“Everybody knows it’s going to get worse,” said Woodwell Climate Research Center scientist Jennifer Francis. “We can do a lot to make it less bad than the worst case scenario.”

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just issued its third report in six months. The first two were on how bad warming is and how it will hurt people and ecosystems, with today’s report focusing on how the extent of disruption depends on how much fossil fuels are burned. It shows the world is still heading in the wrong direction in its fight to curb climate change, with new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure and forests falling to make way for agriculture.

“It’s not that they’re saying you are condemned to a future of destruction and increasing misery,” said Christiana Figueres, the former U.N. climate secretary who helped forge the 2015 Paris climate agreement and now runs an organization called Global Optimism. “What they’re saying is ’the business-as-usual path … is an atlas of misery ’ or a future of increasing destruction. But we don’t have to choose that. And that’s the piece, the second piece, that sort of always gets dropped out of the conversation.”

United Nations Environment Program Director Inger Andersen said with reports like these, officials are walking a tightrope. They are trying to spur the world to action because scientists are calling this a crisis. But they also don’t want to send people spiraling into paralysis because it is too gloomy.

“We are not doomed, but rapid action is absolutely essential,” Andersen said. “With every month or year that we delay action, climate change becomes more complex, expensive and difficult to overcome.”

“The big message we’ve got (is that) human activities got us into this problem and human agency can actually get us out of it again,” James Skea, co-chair of Monday’s report, said. “It’s not all lost. We really have the chance to do something.”

Monday’s report details that it is unlikely, without immediate and drastic carbon pollution cuts, that the world will limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, which is the world’s agreed upon goal. The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit). And earlier IPCC reports have shown that after 1.5 degrees, more people die, more ecosystems are in trouble and climate change worsens rapidly.

“We don’t fall over the cliff at 1.5 degrees,” Skea said, “Even if we were to go beyond 1.5 it doesn’t mean we throw up our hands in despair.”

IPCC reports showed that depending on how much coal, oil, and natural gas is burned, warming by 2100 could be anywhere from 1.4 to 4.4 degrees Celsius (2.5 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, which can mean large differences in sickness, death and weather disasters.

While he sees the increase in doom talk as inevitable, NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt said he knows first-hand that people are wrong when they say nothing can be done: “I work with people and I’m watching other people and I’m seeing the administration. And people are doing things and they’re doing the right things for the most part as best they can. So I’m seeing people do things.”

Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said scientists used to think Earth would be committed to decades of future warming even after people stopped pumping more carbon dioxide into the air than nature takes out. But newer analyses in recent years show it will only take a few years after net zero emissions for carbon levels in the air to start to go down because of carbon being sucked up by the oceans and forests, Mann said.

Scientists’ legitimate worries get repeated and amplified like in the kids game of telephone and “by the time you’re done, it’s ‘we’re doomed’ when what the scientist actually said was we need to reduce or carbon emissions 50% within this decade to avoid 1.5 (degrees of) warming, which would be really bad. Two degrees of warming would be far worse than 1.5 warming, but not the end of civilization,” Mann said.

Mann said doomism has become far more of a threat than denialism and he believes that some of the same people, trade associations and companies that denied climate change are encouraging people who say it is too late. Mann is battling publicly with a retired University of Arizona ecologist, Guy McPherson, an intellectual leader of the doom movement.

McPherson said he’s not part of the monetary system, hasn’t had a paycheck in 13 years, doesn’t vote and lived off the grid for a decade. He said all species go extinct and humans are no exception. He publicly predicted humanity will go extinct in 2026, but in an interview with The Associated Press said, “I’m not nearly as stuck on 2026,” and mentioned 2030 and changes to human habitat from the loss of Arctic summer sea ice.

Woodwell’s Francis, a pioneer in the study of Arctic sea ice who McPherson said he admires, said while the Arctic will be ice free by the summer by 2050, McPherson exaggerates the bad effects. Local Arctic residents will be hit hard, “the rest of us will experience accelerated warming and sea-level rise, disrupted weather patterns and more frequent extreme weather. Most communities will adapt to varying degrees,” Francis said. “There’s no way in hell humans will go extinct by 2026.”

Humans probably can no longer prevent Arctic sea ice from disappearing in the summer, but with new technology and emissions cuts, Francis said, “we stand a real chance of preventing those (other) catastrophic scenarios out there.”

Psychology professor Clayton said “no matter how bad things are, they can always be worse. You can make a difference between bad and worse… That’s very powerful, very self-affirming.

India Critical Of Russian Invasion, But Will Not Name It

India appeared to be giving up its diplomatic equivocation by offering its strongest criticism on the crisis in Ukraine yet by “unequivocally” condemning the killings of civilians in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv, media reports stated.

The statement by India’s Permanent Representative T S Tirumurti last week at the UN Security Council came after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky described in stark detail the atrocities in Bucha. Tirumurti said, “Recent reports of civilian killings in Bucha are deeply disturbing. We unequivocally condemn these killings and support the call for an independent investigation.”

Tirumurti still managed to walk the fine line of delicately calibrated neutrality by not naming Russia even though the implication of his statement was obvious. “India continues to remain deeply concerned at the worsening situation and reiterates its call for an immediate cessation of violence and end to hostilities”, he said.

“We continue to emphasize 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”, he said reiterating the stance New Delhi has taken during earlier U.N. discussions and votes over Ukraine.

India on Saturday abstained on a US-sponsored resolution at the United Nations Security Council that “deplores in the strongest terms” Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine, but sharpened its language by flagging three important concerns — respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, the UN charter and international law—without naming Russia.

Hours later, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said that he “urged India to give political support in the UN Security Council”. “Spoke with Prime Minister @narendramodi. Informed of the course of Ukraine repulsing Russian aggression. More than 100,000 invaders are on our land. They insidiously fire on residential buildings. Urged India to give us political support in UN Security Council. Stop the aggressor together!” he tweeted.

Zelensky made a video address to the U.N. Security Council during which he said there were dozens of other communities other than Bucha where the Russian troops had committed atrocities.

He said “there is not a single crime that they would not commit” and went on to describe in graphic terms what he claimed were Russian atrocities on the civilians of Ukraine. Quite strikingly, he likened the atrocities to those committed by the Islamic State terrorist organizations in the Middle East. He also showed the Security Council a video documenting what he described as war crimes with piles of bodies, some of whose hands were tied.

But Russia’s Permanent Representative Vasily Nebenzia offered Moscow’s familiar argument that images in the video were staged. He also claimed that those were victims of Ukrainian forces or “neo-Nazis”. It might be recalled that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had made a manifestly exaggerated claim that his military operation was aimed at “denazifying” Ukraine even though Zelensky and other members of his cabinet are Jewish.

Both, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo spoke of their horror at the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine. Guterres said, “I will never forget the horrifying images of civilians killed in Bucha”.

“I am also deeply shocked by the personal testimony of rapes and sexual violence that are now emerging”, he said while calling for an independent inquiry.

DiCarlo said, “The horror deepened this past week as shocking images emerged of dead civilians, some with hands bound, lying in the streets of Bucha, the town near Kyiv formerly held by Russian forces. Many bodies were also found in a mass grave in the same locality”.

“Reports by non-governmental organizations and media also allege summary executions of civilians, rape and looting in the Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv regions” she added.

Although there is no prospect of New Delhi acknowledging that its statement today was a clear departure from its careful neutral tone so far, it was quite clear that the Indian government’s concern at the atrocities had crept in more assertively.

Tirumurti said, “The situation in Ukraine has not shown any significant improvement since the Council last discussed the issue. The security situation has only deteriorated, as well as its humanitarian consequences”.

“When innocent human lives are at stake, diplomacy must prevail as the only viable option. In this context, we take note of the ongoing efforts, including the meetings held recently between the parties,” he said.

Tirumurti yet again pointed out that New Delhi had sent medicines and other relief supplies to Ukraine and will continue to do so.

It has been exacting diplomatic calisthenics for New Delhi since the invasion of Ukraine some 40 days ago because its historically robust relations with Moscow as well as its inordinate dependence on Russian manufactured armaments. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visit New Delhi last week in an obvious continuing effort to keep India on his country’s side.

The Prime Minister’s Office said that Zelenskyy had “briefed” Modi about the conflict in Ukraine. Modi expressed his deep anguish about the loss of lives and property due to the conflict, it said and reiterated his call for an “immediate cessation of violence” and a return to dialogue, and “expressed India’s willingness to contribute in any way towards peace efforts”.

While Modi had appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for “immediate cessation of violence”, this is the first time that he has expressed his willingness to participate in peace process. Modi also conveyed deep concern for the safety and security of Indian citizens, including students, present in Ukraine. “He sought facilitation by Ukrainian authorities to expeditiously and safely evacuate Indian citizens,” the PMO said.

Though India’s statement after the vote did not name Russia, it is stronger than previous statements made at the Security Council on the issue in the last one month or so. The vote and the explanation by TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN in New York, came after sustained diplomatic pressure was mounted by the US-led Western bloc as well as Russia.

How Putin Underestimated Ukraine

In the eyes of the Kremlin leadership, the basic precondition of the successful war against Ukraine has been the perceived power of the Russian Armed Forces and possible superiority over the Ukrainian forces.

This idea is clearly visible in the numerous pre-war statements in which it was assumed that Ukrainian people would not fight, that they would welcome Russians, and that they would and should be ‘liberated’ or ‘protected’.

The reality showed the opposite. Not only did Ukrainian Armed Forces fight back, but Ukrainian society demonstrates unity and resistance, something that definitely contradicts the notion of a ‘divided East and West’ promoted by Russian propaganda for years.

Do Ukrainians still have different views regarding politicians, economic development, and even the state of their foreign policy? Yes, absolutely, as any other democratic nation should.

Still, according to the latest sociological surveys (March), 76 per cent of Ukrainian think that their country is going in the right direction, in February, this number was just 25 per cent.

Moreover, Ukrainians are not ready to give up Crimea and the occupied territories of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions: 86 per cent think that Ukraine should use all means necessary to return Donbas, and 80 per cent – to return Crimea – these numbers are also higher than they were before the war started.

A united Ukrainian people

The imperative of the Russian leadership was that Russian-speaking cities such as Kharkiv and Odesa would surrender first. Just before the invasion, there had been rumours in Odesa’s social networks that a mayor bought one million roses to greet Russian soldiers.

Moreover, Kharkiv appeared in the Ukrainian president’s interview with the Washington Post as a city that has the potential to be occupied by the Russian Federation. The latter provoked strong opposition among the local politicians and activists who have been publicly confirming the readiness to resist and the pro-Ukrainian mood of the city.

Some experts now consider that the brutal Russian shelling of Kharkiv is a punishment for that January position. In Odesa too, sociological polls on the third week of the war demonstrated that 91 per cent agreed that Russia is at war with Ukraine, 74 per cent absolutely disagreed that Russia is liberating Ukraine from ‘nationalists’, and 93 per cent supported the actions of President Zelenskyy.

Moreover, an initial plan that these occupied cities would quickly follow ‘the Crimea scenario’ of the fake referendum and the instalment of proxies as heads of the municipality did not work out.

The occupied cities of Kherson, Kahovka, and Energodar have seen daily participation of pro-Ukrainian demonstrations against the Russian forces. Mayors of several towns in Eastern Ukraine, including Melitopol, were kidnapped, but local inhabitants still did not support a new ‘leadership’.

In 2013, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians came to the Maidan after the brutal attack against a small group of students. In 2022, millions of Ukrainians, despite ethnicity, religion, or language preferences, came out in support of the towns that have been under constant attack.

While in January, the newly established Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine was trying to attract 100 thousand reservists, in March, it is almost impossible to join the TDF because of quantity of applications.

These volunteers now have an experience of eight years of continuous war with Russia and bring both humanitarian aid and military supply. But what is most important is that people believe in the Armed Forces, and this trust and support is what makes the situation so difficult for the Kremlin.

2014 is not 2022

In the development of different strategic documents for the Armed Forces or diplomats of Ukraine, we always emphasised an important element – personnel and their motivation. Air superiority or outnumbering in personnel and missiles are important, but only if you have personnel ready to fight and with an understanding for what the country is fighting.

After three weeks of the Russian invasion, it seemed that despite military superiority, the Russian army is confused and demoralised. But unfortunately, not their leadership.

These examples clearly demonstrate the how the Russian leadership underestimated Ukraine’s military, as most conclusions were based on the 2014 situation. Ill-equipped Armed Forces, significant support of the pro-Russian political parties, misunderstanding of the undemocratic processes happening in Russia itself have diminished gradually after eight years of the occupation of Crimea and the war in Donbas.

The desire for peace cannot be confused with the willingness to surrender, and the desire for stability should not be confused with willingness to suppress a democratic and sovereign choice of people.

‘It is our land, it is our home’. ‘We are not contesting anybody or disputing over something. We defend our family’. ‘Don’t ask how is my family, my family is 44 million Ukrainians’. These are the most popular slogans these days. It is not nationalism or excessive patriotism.

This is the type of resilience which experts and politicians have been discussing during the last years. Ukraine adopted its first National Resilience Concept in September 2021. Six months later came a reason to check its validity.

Dr. Hanna Shelest is editor-in-chief of Ukraine Analytica and heads the security policy department at the Ukrainian think tank Ukrainian Prism. Source: International Politics and Society (IPS), published by the Global and European Policy Unit of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin.

7 In 10 Americans See Russia as Enemy, While NATO Is Seen More Positively

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a dramatic shift in American public opinion: 70% of Americans now consider Russia an enemy of the United States, up from 41% in January. And on this topic, Democrats and Republicans largely agree, with 72% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans describing Russia as an enemy.

A new Pew Research Center survey, conducted March 21-27, finds that just 7% of U.S. adults have an overall favorable opinion of Russia. Only 6% express confidence in its leader, President Vladimir Putin. In contrast, 72% have confidence in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The ongoing war has brought renewed attention to NATO. Ukraine is not a NATO member, but it borders several member states, and NATO leaders have worked together in recent weeks to coordinate their responses to the crisis. Attitudes toward the alliance have grown more positive since Russia’s invasion: 67% express a favorable opinion of the organization, up from 61% in 2021. Meanwhile, 69% say the U.S. benefits a great deal or a fair amount from being a NATO member.

While both Democrats and Republicans (including those who lean to each party) hold largely positive views about NATO and U.S. membership in the organization, Democrats are consistently more positive, especially liberal Democrats. For instance, 85% of liberal Democrats think the U.S. benefits a great deal or a fair amount from NATO membership; among conservative Republicans, only 51% hold this view.

Still, partisan differences over NATO have shrunk somewhat over the past year. The share of Democrats and Democratic leaners with a favorable overall opinion of NATO has held steady at nearly eight-in-ten, but among Republicans and GOP leaners, positive views have increased from 44% in spring 2021 to 55% today.

The partisan gap on Russia favorability has also decreased. In 2020 – the last time this question was asked – there was a 17 percentage point difference between the share of Democrats with a very unfavorable opinion of Russia and the share of Republicans with that view; now the gap is only 5 points.

Democrats and Republicans are also now more closely aligned on views about the threat posed by Russia. In the current survey, 66% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say Russia is a major threat to the U.S., similar to the 61% registered among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. However, when this question was last asked in 2020, only 48% of Republicans considered Russia a major threat, compared with 68% of Democrats.

These are among the key findings of a new survey conducted by Pew Research Center on the Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel among 3,581 adults from March 21 to 27, 2022.

Most Americans have a very unfavorable opinion of Russia

Public opinion of Russia is overwhelmingly negative: 92% of Americans say they have an unfavorable view of the country, including 69% who have a very unfavorable view. Since the last time this question was asked on Pew Research Center’s online panel in 2020, almost two years prior to Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, this strongly negative sentiment has increased by 28 percentage points.

Before switching to online surveys, Pew Research Center tracked Americans’ ratings of Russia in phone surveys between 2007 and 2020. In that time, assessments of Russia were never very positive, but they turned sharply negative in the spring of 2014, immediately following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which few countries have recognized – and never recovered.

While negative sentiment toward Russia has increased substantially among both Democrats and Republicans since 2020, Republicans’ views have changed more drastically. Around a third of Republicans and Republican leaners had a very unfavorable view of Russia in 2020, compared with 67% who now hold this view – a 35 percentage point increase. In the same period, the share of Democrats with a very negative view of Russia increased by 23  points. A small partisan gap in views of Russia remains, but Republicans and Democrats are not as divided on Russia as they once were.

Americans ages 65 and older (83%) are much more likely than adults under 30 (55%) to have a very unfavorable view of Russia.

A large majority of Americans now see Russia as an enemy

Changes in overall views of Russia have come alongside changes in how Americans perceive relations between the two countries. Just two months ago, Americans were more likely to describe Russia as a competitor of the U.S. rather than its enemy (49% vs. 41% at the time). Now, Americans overwhelmingly call Russia an enemy: 70% say so, with just 24% preferring to call Russia a competitor of the U.S. Merely 3% of Americans see Russia as a partner, down from 7% two months ago.

While broad cross-sections of Americans primarily see Russia as the United States’ enemy, those ages 65 and older are especially likely to hold this view, with 83% saying so. And while a majority of the youngest adults polled agree that Russia is an enemy (59%), they are far more likely than older adults to label Russia as a competitor.

More educated Americans are also particularly likely to name Russia an enemy – 77% of those with a postgraduate degree say this, while roughly two-thirds of both those with some college education and those with a high school degree or less education say the same.

While Democrats and Republicans largely agree that Russia is an enemy, there are some differences between partisan and ideological camps. Moderate and liberal Republicans are the least likely to name Russia an enemy (63% say this), while liberal Democrats are the most likely (78%).

Perception of Russia as a major threat at all-time high

With most Americans viewing Russia as an enemy, the share who believe that Russia is a threat to the U.S. is higher now than it has ever been since the Center first began polling on this topic in 2008. Overall, 64% of Americans say that Russia’s power and influence is a major threat to their country, 30% say it is a minor threat and only 5% say Russia is not a threat.

Mirroring overall views of Russia, Americans became more wary of the country in 2014, when just over half said it was a major threat to the U.S. At that time and in 2016, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to be concerned. This partisan difference both widened and flipped in following years, however, with Democrats much more likely than Republicans to view Russia as a major threat in each survey between 2017 to 2020. Since then, the share of Republicans who see Russia as a threat has increased, narrowing the partisan gap.

Though views of Russia as a major threat have shifted somewhat over time, the share of Americans who say Russia is not a threat to U.S. interests has never been higher than 10%.

Majorities of adults in all age groups see Russia as a significant threat, but this view is even more common among adults ages 65 and older (70% vs. 57% among those ages 18 to 29).

Amid Russia-Ukraine war, Americans positive on NATO, though partisan divides persist

As NATO faces increased scrutiny in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the political and military alliance is seen in a positive light by most Americans. Two-thirds have a favorable opinion of NATO. This marks a significant increase from the roughly six-in-ten who said the same of the organization in 2020 and 2021.

Prior to 2020, U.S. opinion of NATO was somewhat mixed. Roughly half or more of Americans expressed a favorable view of the organization, with opinion ranging from 49% in 2013 and 2015 to 64% in 2018. However, these figures are from phone surveys and are not directly comparable to more recent online American Trends Panel data.

While Democrats and Republicans are both generally more favorable toward NATO than not, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republican counterparts to have a positive view. About eight-in-ten (78%) Democrats see NATO in a positive light, compared with 55% of Republicans. This pattern was observed in 2021, though Republicans have grown somewhat more favorable on NATO since this question was last asked.

There are notable differences within each partisan coalition: Liberal Democrats are somewhat more likely to hold a favorable opinion of the alliance than conservative or moderate Democrats (83% vs. 75%, respectively). Among Republicans, those who describe their political views as moderate or liberal are more positive about NATO than conservatives (61% vs. 53%, respectively).

Americans of all ages tend to have favorable opinions of NATO overall, but those ages 65 and older are more likely to hold a favorable view of NATO than younger adults. Roughly three-quarters (73%) of older Americans have a positive opinion of the organization, compared with 64% of those ages 18 to 29. Eight-in-ten of those with a postgraduate degree express a favorable opinion of NATO – significantly more than the share with a bachelor’s degree (73%), some college (64%) or a high school degree or less (59%).

The degree to which U.S. adults pay attention to world affairs impacts NATO favorability. Those who are interested in foreign policy (71%) are more likely to express a positive view than those who are not (56%).

About seven-in-ten Americans (69%) say the U.S. benefits a great deal or a fair amount from being a member of NATO, with 31% saying the U.S. benefits a great deal. In contrast, 29% say the U.S. benefits not too much or doesn’t benefit at all. The share who believe the U.S. benefits from NATO membership has held steady since 2021, when 71% held the same view.

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to believe the U.S. benefits from belonging to the alliance. Roughly eight-in-ten Democrats (82%) express this opinion, compared with 55% of Republicans who say the same.

Age and education impact the way NATO membership is perceived. Older Americans (those ages 65 and older) are more likely than younger adults to believe the U.S. benefits from being a member of NATO. About three-quarters of those 65 and older (77%) hold this view, compared with 69% of those ages 18 to 29. And 79% of those with a postgraduate degree are positive about NATO membership – significantly more than in any other education group.

Interest in international affairs is also linked to support for NATO membership. U.S. adults who say they are interested in keeping up to date on foreign affairs are more likely than those who are not to believe the U.S. benefits from membership in NATO (72% vs. 64%, respectively). Similarly, those who follow international news very or somewhat closely are more likely to have a favorable view of U.S. NATO membership than those who do not (72% vs. 66%, respectively).

COVID Cases Rise Nationwide

A burst of high-profile COVID-19 cases in Washington, D.C., is highlighting the lingering threat of the virus, media reports here stated. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Cabinet members including Attorney General Merrick Garland, and a string of lawmakers, have all tested positive in recent days.

The cases are reminders that the virus is still circulating even as much of America moves forward from the pandemic. In fact, experts are bracing for cases to increase in the coming weeks, given an even more highly transmissible subvariant of omicron, known as BA.2, that is circulating widely.

“I do think we’re going to see an uptick nationally,” said Crystal Watson, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “The question is really how high it will get.”  Washington, as well as New York and other parts of the northeast, are already seeing upticks in cases.

The high-profile DC cases, “may be a reflection” of a new spike, Watson said, though she noted it is “hard to tell” exactly how wide a conclusion to draw from them.  “I do think we’re generally seeing an uptick in cases in D.C.,” she said.

Still, there are important ways in which any coming increase in cases will likely not be as bad as previous surges. People who are vaccinated, especially those who are boosted, have strong protection against severe disease, meaning that while they may still get infected, the symptoms are likely to be mild.

In addition to the protection offered by vaccination, many people across the country were infected during the first omicron wave over the winter, which means much of the population still has additional immunity.

“We now have a lot of immunity both from vaccines and from infection,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Brown University. “It’s hard to imagine we will see quite the levels of severe illness that we saw in earlier phases.”

Some experts now say that hospitalizations are a more important metric than sheer case numbers. With a highly transmissible virus and vaccines that protect against severe disease, the goal has shifted more towards preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed, rather than trying to prevent mild cases from occurring.

Notably, even as cases have gone up in Washington, D.C., and New York City, hospitalizations continued to decrease, though they tend to lag behind cases.

Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on Bloomberg TV this week that he hopes the higher levels of immunity in the population help blunt the worst effects of any coming increase in cases.

“I would not be surprised if we see an uptick in cases, whether that uptick becomes a surge where there are a lot more cases is difficult to predict,” Fauci said. “But the one thing that I hope, and I believe there’s reason that this will not happen, is that we won’t get a very large increase proportionately in hospitalizations because of the background immunity.”

Many of the high-profile D.C. cases have appeared to stem from the Gridiron Dinner, a gathering of many top officials. Gridiron organizers said Friday that 53 attendees had been infected.

Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University, argued in a Washington Post op-ed this week that events like the dinner can still go on in this new phase of “living with COVID-19,” especially if they use safeguards like proof of vaccination and rapid testing beforehand.

“There are those who would argue it’s irresponsible to hold parties that could turn into super-spreader events,” Wen wrote. “That was true before vaccines were widely available, but it’s no longer realistic. We need to use a different paradigm — one that’s based on individuals being thoughtful about their own risks and the risks they pose to others.”

Even for President Biden, the White House acknowledged on Friday that he might get the virus, but stressed the protection from he has vaccines and boosters, saying the country is “in a very different place.”

“It is possible he will test positive for COVID at some point and we’re in a very different place than we were…which is to say we have vaccines, we have treatments,” White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said on CNN. “The president is vaccinated and double boosted so, you know, protected from severe COVID.”

While there is a risk of a new uptick, the current situation is also greatly improved. Cases, at about 29,000 per day, according to a New York Times tracker, are at their lowest point since last summer.

Hospitalizations have plummeted to about 15,000, and are at their lowest point since the early days of the pandemic in 2020.  There are still about 500 people dying every day from the virus, concentrated among the unvaccinated.

While treatments and vaccines have put the country in a far better place, experts warn that Congress’s failure to provide more funding to fight the virus risks the progress.

The White House says testing capacity will decline in the coming months, and treatments will run out, if more funding is not provided. And if fourth vaccine doses are needed for all Americans, there is not currently enough money to purchase them.

The United States is also lagging other developed countries in its rates of booster doses.   “We have not done a good enough job on that front,” Nuzzo said, noting there should be a particular focus on reaching the remaining elderly who are not boosted.

About half of eligible adults and a third of eligible seniors are not boosted, according to CDC data.   Making sure people are boosted and protected is key, Nuzzo said, because “this virus isn’t going away.”

Highly Accurate 30-Second Coronavirus Test Developed

Newswise — With any highly infectious disease, time can be a killer. It is crucial to get a test result for a pathogen quickly, lest someone continue in their daily lives infecting others. And delays in testing have undoubtedly exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, the most accurate COVID-19 test often takes 24 hours or longer to return results from a lab.

At-home test kits offer results in minutes but are far less accurate or sensitive.

Researchers at the University of Florida, however, have helped developed a COVID-19 testing device that can detect coronavirus infection in as little as 30 seconds as sensitively and accurately as a PCR, or polymerase chain reaction test, the gold standard of testing. They are working with scientists at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taiwan.

The device, researchers said, could transform public health officials’ ability to quickly detect and respond to the coronavirus — or the next pandemic.

UF has entered into a licensing agreement with a New Jersey company, Houndstoothe Analytics, in hopes of ultimately manufacturing and selling the device, not just to medical professionals but also to consumers.

Like PCR tests, the device is 90% accurate, researchers said, with the same sensitivity, according to a recent peer-reviewed study published by the UF group.

“There is nothing available like it,” said Josephine Esquivel-Upshaw, D.M.D., a professor in the UF College of Dentistry’s Department of Restorative Dental Sciences and member of the research team that developed the device. “It’s true point of care. It’s access to care. We think it will revolutionize diagnostics.”

The device is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. First, researchers said, they have to ensure that test results are not thrown off by cross-contamination with other pathogens that might be found in the mouth and saliva. These include other coronaviruses, staph infections, the flu, pneumonia and 20 others. That work is ongoing.

The hand-held apparatus is powered by a 9-volt battery and uses an inexpensive test strip, similar to those used in blood glucose meters, with coronavirus antibodies attached to a gold-plated film at its tip. The strip is placed on the tongue to collect a tiny saliva sample.

The strip is then inserted into a reader connected to a circuit board with the brains of the device.

If someone is infected, the coronavirus in the saliva binds with the antibodies and begins a dance of sorts as they are prodded by two electrical pulses processed by a special transistor. A higher concentration of coronavirus changes the electrical conductance of the sample. That, in turn, alters the voltage of the electrical pulses.

The voltage signal is amplified a million times and converted to a numerical value — in a sense, the sample’s electrochemical fingerprint. That value will indicate a positive or negative result, and the lower the value, the higher the viral load. The device’s ability to quantify viral and antibody load makes it especially useful for clinical purposes, researchers said.

The product can be constructed for less than $50, Esquivel-Upshaw said. In contrast, PCR test equipment can cost thousands.

The research team also is studying its ability to detect specific proteins that could be used to diagnose other illnesses, including cancer, a heart attack and immune health. 

Fan Ren, Ph.D., a distinguished professor in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical Engineering, and his team had been developing semiconductor-based sensor devices long before COVID-19 for nonmedical purposes.

He noted that he is inspired in his work by the recent death of his wife, which was unrelated to COVID-19. He connects his grief to the mourning of the world at large.

“Almost a million people have died of COVID” in the United States, Ren said. “Those are so many tragedies. Old people. Young people. You name it. I said, ‘No, that’s it.’ That is too much.”

He said several institutions have worked on devices using a field effect transistor, or FET, like that found in the COVID-19 testing device his team is developing. But those devices are basically one-offs — a sample is applied directly to the FET, which means the transistor is not reusable and must be discarded.

That makes those devices expensive and impractical for mass testing, Ren said. Then he hit on the idea of separating transistor from sample, like blood glucose meters that use test strips to collect a drop of blood after a lancet pierces a finger. This innovation, Ren said, makes the UF device unique, affordable and easy to use.

Ren said the device could be used for venues with large crowds, such as concerts, sporting events, classrooms, in addition to medical settings. Researchers say the unit would also provide access to accurate, inexpensive testing in rural areas or in developing nations.

And the personal uses, researchers say, are limitless — parties, baby showers and other small gatherings. “Yes or no. You’re infected or not infected. You get the answer right away,” said Ren.

With Religious Tensions Worsening in India, Understanding Caste Is More Urgent Than Ever

A new Bollywood movie is galvanizing Hindu audiences and stirring up a fresh wave of anti-Muslim bigotry. In the name of India’s Hindu majority, hijabs are banned in one Indian state and Muslims attacked for praying publicly in New Delhi. A hardline Hindu supremacist, infamous for his anti-Muslim comments and for policies that demonize or exclude Muslims, wins a second term as chief minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. His victory is seen as a ringing endorsement of the ideology of Hindutva.

The belief that India is not a secular nation, or even multi-religious, but an intrinsically Hindu country, is the central platform of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But the “Hindu majority” invoked by supporters of Hindutva, in their agitation against Muslims and other minorities, is not a monolithic bloc. In fact, it is highly stratified, with elite groups of Hindus exploiting the vulnerability of marginalized communities for their own political ends.

If Hindu unity is a facade, it also follows that the Hindu-Muslim binary, while a common framing for the discussion of Indian politics, cannot be as straightforward as it appears.

To understand the nuances of Indian politics, one needs to understand the complex caste system. At three thousand years old, this system of organizing Hindus by their professions and obligations is the world’s longest running hierarchy and probably the most rigid. By some estimates, there are 3,000 main castes and as many as 25,000 sub-castes, with Brahmins (intellectuals) at the top and Shudras (menials) at the bottom.

Lying outside this system are the Dalits (formerly called “untouchables”) and the Adivasi (indigenous tribes), together totaling 350 million people, or just over a quarter of India’s population. They are the most socio-economically marginalized groups in the country, but they are also contested over by Hindu nationalists, who see them as useful foot soldiers in the struggle against Islam.

“Hindu nationalism is led by the upper castes and their incitement of all Hindus against the Muslim minority is a ploy that enables them to keep their grip on Hindu society,” says the welfare economist Jean Drèze. “It makes it all the more difficult for Dalits and other exploited groups to question their own oppression by the upper castes and revolt against it.”

Some 200 members of Dalit and other castes attend a religious program to convert to Buddhism in Ahmedabad, India, on Sept. 30, 2017.

At the same time, there is a fear that other religions will prove more attractive to the disadvantaged communities who, being outside the caste system, need not have any particular loyalty to Hinduism. Dalits are not even allowed to enter many Hindu temples. Small wonder that Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), a revered Dalit leader and the head of the committee that drafted Indian constitution, urged every Dalit to convert to Buddhism.

If the 25% of the population represented by such communities were to become Buddhists or Christians, the idea of Hindutva would be seriously weakened. Mass Dalit conversions have already taken place. In response, legal moves have been made in several Indian states to prevent people from leaving the Hindu religion.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu Nationalist group and the parent organization of the BJP, is also making strenuous if belated efforts to include Dalits and the Adivasis in the Hindu fold. Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the RSS, told a gathering in January that the caste system was “an obstacle to Hindu unity.” Last year, he also said “we consider every Indian a Hindu.”

Using such language, the RSS is able to appeal to emotionally vulnerable Dalits, helping them feel accepted in a society that has historically excluded them. Dalits are told that they are “the real warriors of Hinduism.”

The next step is conversion “into active anti-Muslim sentiments,” says Bhanwar Meghwanshi. Today a Dalit-rights activist, Meghwanshi formerly served in the organization and wrote a book about his experiences entitled I Could Not Be Hindu: The Story of a Dalit in the RSS.

“We were trained to hate Muslims,” he says, “so we could be [RSS] foot soldiers in anti-Muslim riots.” (Tellingly, the great majority of those arrested in the 2002 Gujurat riots were from Dalit and other disadvantaged groups.)

Ironically, its middle initial stands for swayamsevak or “self-reliance,” when the RSS is heavily reliant on Dalits and Adivasis to do its dirty work during periods of communal violence.

Compounding the issue is the fact that the Muslim community is also stratified on caste lines, in ways that mirror the Hindu system. Indian Islam has its ashrafs (nobles), ajlafs (commoners), and arzals (“despicables”).

The political manipulation of disadvantaged castes will continue so long as they refuse to see that they are “simply pawns in the middle,” being led by “oppressor castes,” says Suraj Kumar Bauddh, an anti-caste activist and the founder of Mission Ambedkar. “Whether they are Hindu lower-caste communities, or Muslim lower-caste communities, they are only told to kill and die, to gain acceptance within either fold.”

The existence of a ready supply of expendable fighters can only exacerbate India’s spiraling religious tensions. Now more than ever, Dalits, Adivasis—and disadvantaged Muslims—must reframe the political debate.

KTR, Telengana Minister Woos U.S. Life Sciences Companies, Ready To ‘Beat Any Offer’

Representatives of 18 biotechnology companies attended the roundtable meeting chaired by KT Rama Rao, Telangana information technology and industries minister, where they exchanged ideas on how to promote innovation and investments in the State of Telangana.

Rama Rao, popularly known in Telangana as KTR, was visiting Silicon Valley past month, and during the roundtable meeting with key Biotech, Pharma, and Lifesciences companies, invited them to his state, He discussed the emerging trends in the sector, strategic initiatives that can be rolled out by the Telangana government, and support that can be extended by the government, policy interventions, etc.

Industries and IT Minister KT Rama Rao chaired an industry roundtable with select leaders of biotechnology companies based out of the Bay Area, USA. He presented the overall life sciences and biotechnology ecosystem in Telangana along with the success stories and investment opportunities in the sector.

Rama Rao invited the companies to set up their research and development, digital and manufacturing operations in Hyderabad.

The industry leaders lauded the efforts of the Government to accelerate growth in the life sciences sector and responded positively to Rama Rao’s request to explore investment opportunities in Telangana.

Further, the roundtable discussed the emerging trends in the sector, strategic initiatives that can be rolled out by Telangana Government, support that can be extended by the Government, policy interventions and others to promote innovation and investments in the Telangana.

Industry leaders from Apollomics, Aarvik Therapeutics, Chemveda Life Sciences, Abbvie, Protagonist Therapeutics, Samsara Capital, Stanford India Biodesign, Orbees Medical, Dice Therapeutics, Seal Rock therapeutics, Vasa Therapeutics, Aria Pharmaceuticals, Atomwise, Genentech, Frazier Health Sciences, Alector, Gilead Sciences, AngioSafe and Tosk were among those who attended the roundtable.

Industries Principal Secretary Jayesh Ranjan and Life Sciences Director Shakthi M Nagappan were present.

Bharti Desai Midwest Garba Queen Rocks Chicagoland Indian Community

Chicago IL: First time in Chicago Aarush Entertainment and Manav Seva Mandir present Chaitra Navratri Garba by Midwest Garba Queen Bharti Desai on Saturday – April 09, 2022 at Manav Seva Mandir, 101 S Church Rd, Bensenville, IL. This auspicious event was celebrated by family, friends, and well-wishers.

 

For Garba, the members were adorned with beautiful and traditional attire, Chaniya-Choli and Kurta-pajama. The whirling dancers, clapping hands, distinct sound of wooden ‘Dandia’ striking together, toe tapping music and people wearing vibrant colorful clothes marked the Navratri celebrations at the Garba & Dandiya Raas,

 

Chaitra Navratri is a nine days festivity which starts on the first day of Hindu Luni-Solar calendar and falls in the month of March or April. Chaitra is the first month of Hindu lunar calendar and because of it this Navratri is known as Chaitra Navratri. Chaitra Navratri is also known as Vasanta Navratri.

 

This year, the Navratri celebration was organized by President of Aarush Entertainment Manoj Rathod. 

 

The Aarti table was beautifully decorated in the center of the hall with flowers, fruits and candle lamps around the pictures of Amba Mata and Modheshwari Mata by Manoj Rathod and his wife Rajkumari Rathod. To begin the Garba celebrations, everyone prayed together.  The atmosphere was filled with warmth and devotion. When asked, Manoj stated, “Our goal was to create a special spiritual bonding experience for all the friends and family celebrating Chaitra Navratri this year.”

 

The lead singer at the event, Garba Queen of Midwest, Bharti Desai is a renowned & award-winning singer in Chicago who enthralled the audience with her charming personality. She started with the Three claps Garba, “Kum Kum Kera Pagale Madi”. She sang the Classical “Raksha Karo Ambe Maa Bhavani”.  She continued amazing Garbas in Two Taali. In Raas everybody enjoyed “Disco Dandia”, “Sanedo”, “Amu Kaka Bapa Na”, “Bhai-Bhai”, “Hitch”. She sang all what the Khelaiys wanted to hear for their dance and continued with Mataji’s Arti, Thaal & Stuti. On stage, Bharti Desai was accompanied by Amit Desai (Side Rhythm), Shivam Thakker (Dhol & Tabla), Mahavrat (Octopad), Vedant (Key Board), Harish Shukla (Sound Engineer).

 

The reason people love Bharati Desai could be “because she sings from her heart and soul”, said Altaf Bukhari, Vice President Federation of Indian Associations (FIA)-Chicago IL.  “The songs that she selects are well known and original folk songs” said Nisha Deshpande who was accompanied by her 3 yrs. an old son dressed up in traditional Gujarati dress, one of the many energetic participants present there. “She gives little variation in notes, but keeps the soul, the ‘atma’ of the song intact,” said Roma Bhagat. This was echoed by another very happy attendee Mrs. Priya Ghayal who described the events as an excellent, enjoyable, exceptional event presented by Bharti Desai.

 

“Many thanks to Mayur Max Ganger Bhai of Sajni Entertainment & Altaf Bukhari of A.B Entertainment for their sponsorship, because without their valuable support it would not be possible to have such a magnificent event. Also, thanks to the wonderful audience of Chicago and well-wishers who attended the event to make it a huge success” said President of Aarush Entertainment, Manoj Rathod. 

“It was a colorful, cherished event as kids, youth and adults of all ages participated and brought the liveliness around us.” said Anita Patel. The Garba program ended with an Arti around 10:30 p.m. followed by Prasad distribution. 

 

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.

Value-Driven US Healthcare System Continues, But More Work Remains

Newswise —Value in Health, the official journal of ISPOR—The Professional Society for Health Economics and Outcomes Research, announced today the publication of a report showing that 4 years after the 2018 ISPOR Special Task Force on US Value Assessments published its recommendations meant to advance value assessment methods, researchers have provided more rigorous theoretical and mathematical foundations for some novel value elements while others continue to lag behind. The report, “The History and Future of the ‘ISPOR Value Flower’: Addressing Limitations of Conventional Cost-Effectiveness Analysis,” was published in the April 2022 issue of Value in Health.

In 2018, the ISPOR Special Task Force on US Value Assessments published recommendations intended to help broaden the view of value in healthcare and spur new research on incorporating additional elements of value in traditional cost-effectiveness analyses. The members of the Special Task Force leadership group were Peter J. Neumann, ScD, Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health at the Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA; Louis P. Garrison, PhD, University of Washington School of Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy Program, Seattle, WA, USA; and Richard J. Willke, PhD, Chief Science Officer, ISPOR, Lawrenceville, NJ, USA.

Specifically, the Special Task Force identified and considered 12 potential elements of value, including 2 core elements (net costs and quality-adjusted life years), 2 common but inconsistently used elements (productivity and adherence-improvement) and 8 potentially novel ones (reduction in uncertainty, fear of contagion, value of insurance, severity of disease, value of hope, real option value, equity, and scientific spillovers). These 12 elements came to be known as the “ISPOR Value Flower.” In the past few years, the value flower, with its petals highlighting elements that may be overlooked or underappreciated in conventional drug value assessments, has been discussed and debated widely.

Now, years after the Special Task Force published its recommendations, the leadership group—Drs Neumann, Garrison, and Willke—have authored this important update describing recent developments and considering implications for future value assessments.

“Our review of conceptual and empirical papers published in the past 4 years shows that researchers have provided more rigorous theoretical and mathematical foundations for certain novel value elements (eg, severity of disease, value of insurance, value of hope) through generalized risk-adjusted cost-effectiveness analysis, which incorporates risk aversion in people’s preferences and uncertainty in treatment outcomes,” said the authors. “Empirical estimates are also emerging to support key elements, such as value of insurance, real option value, value of hope, and value of knowing.” 

While health technology assessment bodies have applied, or are considering certain elements as described above, other elements have yet to gain traction. The authors note that in part, the lack of uptake may simply reflect the recency of the Special Task Force report and other research. But it may also reflect other factors: a relative dearth of empirical estimates to support novel elements, the difficulties of changing established practices, the absence of strong incentives for US payers to consider non-health effects and externalities, an unwillingness of health insurers to consider elements such as option value or scientific spillovers because they rely on yet undiscovered innovation, or skepticism in the field. 

“Five years after the Special Task Force began its work, the development of novel value measures continues to evolve,” the authors note. “While it is encouraging to see supporting empirical studies emerging, more are needed. Additional efforts are also needed to illustrate how the estimates can be used in the deliberative processes that are integral to health technology assessments. Finally, it would be worth revisiting the design of the ISPOR value flower itself. Considerable discussion of value frameworks has continued without a consensus on any one specific parsing and identification of all the potential elements. Including novel elements will not solve all issues related to value measurement in healthcare. But they can help us think more clearly and comprehensively about the tradeoffs that individuals and societies are willing to make in their choices.” 

Additional information on ISPOR’s work on value assessment can be found on the Society’s Value Assessment Frameworks webpage.

ABOUT ISPOR
ISPOR, the professional society for health economics and outcomes research (HEOR), is an international, multistakeholder, nonprofit dedicated to advancing HEOR excellence to improve decision making for health globally. The Society is the leading source for scientific conferences, peer-reviewed and MEDLINE®-indexed publications, good practices guidance, education, collaboration, and tools/resources in the field.
Website  | LinkedIn  | Twitter (@ispororg)  |  YouTube  |  Facebook  |  Instagram  

 ABOUT VALUE IN HEALTH
Value in Health (ISSN 1098-3015) is an international, indexed journal that publishes original research and health policy articles that advance the field of health economics and outcomes research to help healthcare leaders make evidence-based decisions. The journal’s 2020 impact factor score is 5.725 and its 5-year impact factor score is 6.932. Value in Health is ranked 4th of 98 journals in health policy and services, 9th of 108 journals in healthcare sciences and services, and 24th of 376 journals in economics. Value in Health is a monthly publication that circulates to more than 10,000 readers around the world.
Website  | Twitter (@isporjournals)

British Chancellor Rishi Sunak Seeks Inquiry Into Wife Akshata Murty’s Tax Leak

Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom, an embattled British Conservative party Chancellor of the exchequer, has defended his Indian wife Akshata Murthy, daughter of Narayana Murthy, one of the founders of software giant Infosys, against charges of avoiding paying taxes in Britain.

Sunak, who is of East African-Indian origin, told media that reports about her non-domicile status are ‘unpleasant smears’. A non-dom in the United Kingdom does not have to pay tax on her overseas income. The BBC estimated “she would have avoided 2.1 million pounds a year in UK tax”.

This, while not unlawful, is embarrassing for Sunak, under whom comes Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). “To smear my wife to get at me is awful,” Sunak insisted.

Murthy is said to own a 0.9 per cent stake in Infosys, which has been calculated as being worth 500 million pounds. Annual dividends from this holding is estimated to be 11.6 million pounds. On Thursday, it emerged she pays just 30,000 pounds a year in the UK on the British income.

Rishi Sunak is now demanding a Whitehall inquiry to find out who leaked details about his wife Akshata Murty’s tax arrangements. Murty has said she will pay UK taxes on her overseas income, following a row over her non-domicile status, the BBC reported.

Downing Street has rejected newspaper reports that its staff leaked damaging stories about Sunak to the media. It has been a bruising week for the Chancellor, and now he has asked senior civil servants for a full investigation to establish who divulged his wife’s tax status.

His allies say very few people had access to the personal information, which Sunak declared to Whitehall officials when he became a minister in 2018, the BBC reported.

Some Conservative MPs say he was naive to think the details would remain private, and that he should have predicted that the tax arrangements would be criticised as inappropriate, despite being legal. Sunak’s team has dismissed suggestions of a rift with Downing Street and say the prime minister has been “incredibly supportive”.

The opposition Labor party said it would be “breath-taking hypocrisy” if the Chancellor’s wife had reduced her tax bill as he raised taxes for millions of workers — referring to the rise in National Insurance contributions imposed in last month’s budget by Sunak.

Opposition Labor Party MP Louise Haigh said: “I think the question many people will be asking is whether it was ethical and whether it was right that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whilst piling on 15 separate tax rises to the British public, was benefiting from a tax scheme that allowed his household to pay significantly less to the tune of potentially tens of millions of pounds.”

The Chancellor’s brand, vigorously promoted since he came to office, has been damaged, with some members of the ruling Conservative Party questioning his judgement. Opposition MPs have said Sunak’s family is benefiting at a time when he is putting up taxes for millions of others, the BBC reported.

However, a section of British newspapers has claimed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office is leaking damaging material about Sunak to media. 10 Downing Street described the allegations as “categorically untrue” and “baseless”.

On Thursday, the pro-Johnson Daily Mail ran a headline, which read: “Collapsed fitness chain backed by Rishi Sunak’s non-dom wife was paid up to 650,000 pounds in furlough cash – while her billionaire father’s IT firm claimed Covid handout for hundreds of UK staff”.

Earlier, the attack against Sunak ranged from he being the richest member of Parliament with a net worth of 200 million pounds, to Infosys operating in Russia, which western corporate houses are restrained from doing after the West’s sanctions against the Russian Federation following its invasion of Ukraine.

While Sunak may have built a slight fortune as an investment banker, his background is upper middle class, his father being a general practitioner and mother an owner of a chemist’s shop.

The allegation about Infosys was ridiculous as an Indian company is under no obligation to copy its western counterparts, since the government of India maintains normal economic ties with Moscow.

From December 2021 until before the Russia-Ukraine conflict — when Johnson’s continuity as head of government looked untenable, because of a series of scandals associated with him — it was widely being speculated in British print media as well as in Conservative circles that Sunak was a front-runner to succeed Johnson.

It was also pointed out at that point that while other cabinet colleagues were strenuously defending Johnson against the barrage of demands for him to step down, Sunak was lukewarm in doing so, which was interpreted as ‘ambition’.

Sunak became popular when the British government was significantly generous in protecting the livelihoods during the Covid-19 crisis. But having borrowed money to extend such assistance, it was inevitable that he would have to raise taxes to repay the debt. However, given the cost of living crisis that had descended on Britons because of inflation, the Chancellor’s recent budget has been condemned as uncaring.

In Britain, a budget is identified in particular with the Chancellor, although the intelligentsia is aware its contents have the prior approval of the Prime Minister. With Johnson not saying much to protect Sunak against the onslaught unleashed against him on his proposals or lack of them, an impression has grown that the latter is being thrown under a bus.

Discovery Acquires HBO, CNN, And Warner Bros., Creating New Media Giant

Discovery’s merger with Warner Media took effect on April 8th, 2022, creating a streaming media giant led by CEO David Zaslav. The deal combines two treasure troves of content and foreshadows further changes in the streaming era.

The newly formed company, Warner Bros. Discovery, will begin publicly trading on Monday. Zaslav said he will hold a town hall event for employees of the combined company later in the week.

“I am confident that our collective energy and genuine love for these businesses and brands will build the world’s most dynamic media and entertainment company,” Zaslav said in a memo to employees Friday afternoon.

Zaslav said Warner Bros. Discovery “can propel the creation of high-quality content; create more opportunity for under-represented storytellers and independent creators; and serve customers with more innovative video experiences and points of engagement.”

The deal, first announced last May, is a climactic moment for Zaslav and his longtime deputies at Discovery, best known for brands like Animal Planet, TLC and HGTV. The merger adds HBO, CNN, TNT, Turner Sports, the Warner Bros. movie studio, and a huge raft of other media assets to the company.

Setting the stage to compete with the likes of Disney and Netflix, Zaslav said in Friday’s memo that “we are well positioned to become a top-tier streaming competitor.”

He confirmed that the main streaming services from each side of the company, HBO Max and discovery+, will be brought “into a single product in the future.”

The merger vaults Zaslav to the very top tier of the media business, controlling everything from a legendary movie studio to a global news network.

As Rich Greenfield, the influential LightShed Partners media analyst, told CNN Business, “David can actually beat Goliath!” Greenfield said “Zaslav and team find themselves in a position that was unimaginable two years ago — sitting near the top of Hollywood.”

Shareholders of AT&T (T), which spun off WarnerMedia earlier this week, hold 71% of shares in the new company, and Discovery shareholders hold 29%. But the transaction represents AT&T’s reversal of an earlier plan to become a media heavyweight. With Friday’s deal “close,” in Wall Street speak, AT&T has officially unwound its 2018 takeover of Time Warner and refocused on its core business.

AT&T CEO John Stankey bid farewell to the media company in a candid memo to staffers on Friday. “Getting to this moment was one of the more difficult decisions of my life,” he wrote. “I am sure you aren’t surprised that it came with a fair amount of anxiety, disappointment, and concern relative to the changes it would trigger. All considered, I remain confident we have set the right path.”

“Over time,” Stankey wrote, “the combination of WarnerMedia and Discovery will bring forth a stronger company and quicken the already strong pace of innovation and change you have established.”

Warner Bros. Discovery is anticipating $3 billion in what businesses often refer to as “synergies,” which means the combination will almost certainly entail layoffs. Already, many of Warner’s top executives have exited the company, including WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, whose last day was Friday.

Zaslav wrote in an internal memo on Thursday that “we are establishing a simpler organizational structure with fewer layers, more accountability and more resources focused on the screen.”

Discovery executive Bruce Campbell will oversee all revenue for the new company. JB Perrette will run global streaming and interactive entertainment. Kathleen Finch will oversee all cable networks except CNN and HBO. CNN will be operated separately, with Chris Licht becoming chairman and CEO of CNN Global. All will report to Zaslav.

Three key creative executives from WarnerMedia will also report directly to Zaslav: HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys; Warner Bros. Television Group chairman Channing Dungey; and Warner Bros. Picture Group chairman Toby Emmerich.

US Colleges See International Applications Surging

Prominent U.S. colleges and universities are reporting a surge in international applications over the past two years, fueled by the easing of pandemic travel restrictions and new policies that allow potential students to apply without SAT or ACT scores.

The Common Application, an online platform for hundreds of schools, found that as of March 15 the number of international applicants had grown 34% since 2020. That far exceeded the 12% rate of growth for U.S. applicants.

The data reveals a tantalizing source of potential students as colleges nationwide grapple with significant enrollment losses since the pandemic. However, those applicants are often chasing big-name schools that are not hurting for students.

“It’s obviously a huge population of young people around the globe who could potentially pursue education here,” said MJ Knoll-Finn, senior vice president for enrollment management and student success at New York University. “There’s a lot of strength in the U.S. market.”

For prospective international students, the past two years have posed intense challenges. The public health crisis disrupted travel worldwide in 2020 and 2021 and threw college enrollment plans into chaos.

The recent growth in applications is uneven. At public Indiana University, international applications for freshman admission were up 11% over two years. At the public University of California system, they were up 17%. Some big-name private schools revealed huge increases: Dartmouth College, up 71%; Yale University, up 99%.

At Yale, one of the world’s most selective universities, applications from all locations, foreign and domestic, topped 50,000 this year for the first time. That’s up 42% from the total the university received in 2020. Yale’s admissions rate, which was 6.5% that year, sank to 4.5% this year.

″More than half of the total increase in the applicant pool over those two years has come from international applicants,” Jeremiah Quinlan, Yale’s dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid, wrote in an email.

Yale is a special case because it is one of a handful of schools that pledge to review international applications without regard to financial need and meet the full need of those who are admitted. Others are Harvard and Princeton universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Amherst College. Dartmouth announced in January that it is joining this group.

But the growth in international applications appears to be about more than financial aid. Soon after the pandemic emerged, Yale (like many selective colleges) suspended its admissions testing requirement. It will not require SAT or ACT scores through at least the next admissions cycle. That has lured potential students from around the world who otherwise might have hesitated to apply. “The shift to test-optional has definitely played a role in this increase,” Quinlan wrote.

The pandemic imposed major hurdles in access to testing for students around the world. The College Board, which owns the SAT, found that about 122,000 international students in the high school Class of 2021 took the admissions test. That was down 23% compared with the previous class.

Test access wasn’t the only problem. Health, financial and travel worries have also plagued international students. The Institute of International Education, which tracks enrollment, found the number of international undergraduates in the United States plummeted 14% in the 2020-2021 school year. That exacerbated major domestic recruiting problems. U.S. colleges and universities have shed more than 5% of their enrollment since fall 2019 – nearly 1 million students – amid the pandemic and economic upheaval.

Now, colleges and universities are hoping that the volatility in global higher education is easing. “The pandemic just blew up everyone’s enrollment models and projections,” said John Wilkerson, associate vice president for international services at Indiana University. Wilkerson said he sees signs of a return to normalcy. Some of the international application growth, he said, is due to pent-up demand. Many potential students want to hit the road after not being able to travel for a couple years.

The Common App’s data shows that the top suppliers of international applicants this year, in descending order, are China, India, Canada, Pakistan and Nigeria. Admissions experts point to India as a key source of growth.

Federal data show that a little more than 3% of the 16.5 million undergraduates in fall 2019 were international students. During the Trump administration, colleges worried that hard-line federal policies on immigration and travel from certain countries could drive away international students. “There was huge concern,” said Angel B. Pérez, chief executive of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. With President Joe Biden in office, he said, it appears those questions have receded.

“There is a little bit more optimism from enrollment managers,” Pérez said. As the pandemic eases, he said, “the infrastructure to get students to the United States is also coming back.”

Natalie Bitton, president of the International Association for College Admission Counseling, which is affiliated with the association Pérez leads, said she sees the beginnings of a rebound in demand for U.S. higher education. “Two major barriers have been lifted,” Bitton said. “One is the ability to leave their country and get visas. And the second is the testing requirement changes.”

For the University of California at Los Angeles, international applications for freshman admission have risen more than 30% since 2020 – to about 23,600. The surge coincides with the elimination of test scores as a factor in admissions. The UC system’s shift to a “test-free” policy, said Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, vice provost for enrollment management at UCLA, “has attracted applicants who may have had challenges accessing one of those exams.”

For NYU, international applications are part of its lifeblood. About a quarter of its 27,000 undergraduates in New York are international. The private university also has campuses in Shanghai and the United Arab Emirates. This year, international applications to NYU’s main campus in New York were up 15%, said Knoll-Finn, the NYU enrollment chief.

Like other universities, NYU stepped up its virtual recruiting during the pandemic because admissions officers were unable to travel much in person. Knoll-Finn said that has helped NYU draw a more diverse group of potential students. A more lenient admissions-testing policy was also a factor, she said. “We do think that being test optional has probably lowered a barrier for many students who might have a harder time getting to those tests,” Knoll-Finn said.

Bill Introduced To Recapture Unused Family And Employment Based Green Card Visas

House Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) earlier this week, introduced H.R. 7374, the Jumpstart our Legal Immigration System Act, a bill that recaptures hundreds of thousands of unused family- and employment-based visas and allows individuals who are in the U.S. and eligible for a green card – but for the lack of an available visa number – to apply for their green card upon paying a fee. Both major provisions included in this bill were part of the House-passed version of the Build Back Better Act.

The Jumpstart our Legal Immigration System Act is co-sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27) and Ritchie Torres (NY-15).

“We all know that our immigration system is dysfunctional, and it has been in dire need of reform for decades,” said Chair Lofgren. “The basic framework for allocating immigrant visas dates back to the middle of the 20th century and was last seriously updated in 1990, when Congress established the worldwide numerical limits on visas and the 7% per-country cap that still exists today. Over time, these limitations have led to backlogs that were unimaginable in 1990. The Jumpstart our Legal Immigration System Act will help reduce the backlogs, thereby enabling immigrants to fully contribute to their communities and our national economy, while also allowing U.S. companies to attract and retain high-skilled workers. That will enhance our country’s competitive advantage and our position as a global leader in innovation.”

“By restoring the availability of immigrant visas lost due to COVID-19 or bureaucratic delay and enhancing green card processing, we are investing in our families and U.S. businesses,” said Chair Nadler. “Our immigration system is in desperate need of reform and this legislation is a vital step in the right direction. That is why I am proud to join Subcommittee Chair Lofgren in introducing the Jumpstart our Legal Immigration System Act, which will recapture some 400,000 family- and employment- based visas, create an accelerated path to adjustment of status for those already here, and give much need funds to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to improve visa processing. This legislation, much of which was included in the House-passed version of the Build Back Better Act, is a no-brainer for our communities and economy.”

“There are over four million people in the family immigration backlogs waiting to be reunited with their loved ones. Recapturing unused visas that were lost to delays and bureaucracy would help ease the already burdensome backlogs for immigrant families and workers,” said Rep. Chu. “The Jumpstart our Legal Immigration System Act will not only help to alleviate these YEARS LONG wait times for families, but it will also ensure that we honor the diversity visas that were earned but were denied based on the Trump administration’s cruel Muslim and African bans.”

“From his first days in office, President Biden acted swiftly to reverse the deeply damaging immigration policies of the Trump administration, yet it is no question that our immigration system has been broken for decades,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres. “The Jumpstart our Legal Immigration System Act will begin to address the visa backlog that has prevented hundreds-of-thousands family- and employment-based visas to enter the U.S., while also providing relief for diversity visa winners impacted by the Trump Muslim Ban. I am proud to support legislation that will finally bring much needed reform to our immigration system.”

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of State, there are currently around four million individuals waiting in the family-sponsored immigrant visa backlog and one million individuals waiting in the employment-based immigrant visa backlog.

This legislation amends the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to prevent the future loss of unused employment-based visas by ensuring that they roll over to the family-based categories as Congress intended. The bill also recaptures unused immigrant visas from 1992 through 2021 which would result in the recapture of:

  • Approximately 222,000 unused family-sponsored visas; and
  • Approximately 157,000 employment-based visas.

The legislation would also allow an estimated 40,000 individuals who were selected for, but did not receive, the diversity visa lottery to reapply for such visas. These individuals were unable to finalize the process or enter the U.S. due to various executive orders or COVID-related office closures and restrictions.

Further, the Jumpstart our Legal Immigration System Act allows individuals who are in the U.S. and eligible for adjustment to Legal Permanent Residence (LPR) status – but for the lack of an available visa number – to apply for adjustment upon paying a fee. This will allow individuals to receive work authorization while they wait for a visa number to become available and will prevent dependent children from “aging out” of eligibility for LPR status.

Finally, the legislation allows immigrants who are in the U.S. to receive an exemption from the immigrant visa numerical limits and adjust their status to a green card if their immigrant visa petition has been approved for two years and they pay a supplemental fee.

To adjudicate these applications and reduce case processing backlogs, the legislation includes $400 million for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Rising Oil Prices To Keep Indian Rupee On A Slippery Slope

High crude oil prices combined with fears of rising inflation are expected to keep the Indian rupee under pressure, next week. Lately, the Brent crude oil price has remained elevated due to the Russian-Ukrainian war. The price has hovered in the range of $100-$110 in the last few weeks.

“Rupee has been under pressure due to rising US bond yields, inflation and high crude oil prices,” said Sajal Gupta Head Fx & Rates Edelweiss.

“These circumstances are going to be tough for the Indian rupee to appreciate. Expect rupee to trade between 75.50 and 76.25 in the next week.” Last week, the rupee closed at 75.90 to a greenback.

“Next week is a relatively shorter week but market participants will be keeping an eye on the inflation and industrial production number to gauge a view for the currency,” said Gaurang Somaiya, Forex & Bullion Analyst, Motilal Oswal Financial Services.

“Expectation is that inflation could remain elevated following the recent rise in energy and food prices. On the other hand, industrial production could grow at a slower pace in January and could further weigh on the currency.”

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is slated to release the macro-economic data points of Index of Industrial Production (IIP), Consumer Price Index (CPI) on March 12.

On the other hand, expectations of India Inc’s healthy Q4FY22 results season should attract fresh equity focused foreign funds which might cub any sharp weakness in the Indian rupee versus the US dollar.

“Dollar index have surged past week and it is now trading near crucial psychological mark of 100,” said Devarsh Vakil, Deputy Head of Retail Research, HDFC Securities.

“Rupee is likely to consolidate next week on back of improving sentiments for equity markets. In near term, spot USD INR expected to trade in the range of 76.20 to 75.70. with bias towards appreciation.”

Veena Reddy Assumes Charge As USAID Mission Director to India

Veena Reddy, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, has arrived in New Delhi to take charge as the new Mission Director for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in India.  In her role as the Mission Director, Reddy will lead USAID’s operations in India and Bhutan.

In connection with her appointment, Reddy stated, “For the past seven decades, USAID has partnered with the people and Government of India to build a peaceful and prosperous society. During that time our partnership has evolved, and I look forward to further strengthening our relationship.  The challenges faced by all during the COVID-19 pandemic have taken an enormous human and economic toll on India and beyond.  I am confident that with the strength and warmth of the U.S.-India partnership, we will continue to move forward on the road to prosperity.”

Interim US Ambassador to India, Atul Keshap expressed his pride and admiration that another Indian American will lead a critical Mission component, reflecting the accomplishments of Indian Americans in all walks of life in America.

Reddy brings with her a rich background in development and diplomacy.  Born in Andhra Pradesh, India, she is the first Indian American to lead USAID in India and Bhutan.

Reddy has had an extensive career as a U.S. foreign service officer, serving as USAID’s Mission Director in Cambodia; USAID’s Deputy Mission Director in Haiti; and in Washington, D.C. as an Assistant General Counsel, covering legal matters for USAID’s programs in Asia and the Middle East.  Before embarking on a career of federal government service, Ms. Reddy was a corporate attorney in New York, London, and Los Angeles.  Reddy holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Columbia University School of Law and an M.A. and B.A. from the University of Chicago.

“USAID is committed to supporting India in achieving its development goals, supporting clean energy and environmental reform, combating climate challenges, improving health, encouraging inclusive economic growth, and bolstering the COVID-19 response,” said a press release issued by the organization.  Recognizing India’s leadership, USAID is working with the Government of India, the private sector, and civil society to test and scale innovative development solutions in India, as well as regionally and globally.

Emirates IDs To Be Used As Proof Of Residency For Expats

The Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs, and Ports Security (ICA) has issued a circular stating that residency stickers on passports will no longer be issued for expatriates.

The circular, seen by Arabian Business, states that Emirates ID cards issued to expats will be used as a proof of valid UAE residency, effective from Monday, April 11.

The ICA has affirmed that a decision to cancel the residency stickers affixed to residents’ passports was issued in line with the UAE wise leadership’s directives to upgrade services to achieve customer happiness.

The cancellation decision also reduces the steps associated with the process of issuing and renewing the UAE residency for expatriates, as it provides a unified form which includes the issuance and renewal of the residency and the Emirates ID in a single application.

Additionally, the authority’s smart application provides the possibility to obtain an electronic copy of the Emirates ID upon request.

The new generation of the Emirates ID cards issued to foreigners residing in the UAE will include all the details that were previously mentioned on the residency stickers affixed to passports.

Major General Saeed Rakan Al Rashidi, the acting director of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), added that the previous versions of the residence stickers would remain available electronically through the authority’s smart application, in a step aimed at enhancing transitional flexibility towards using the Emirates ID as an alternative.

UAE residents can apply for a printed version of their residency bearing the authority’s stamp, through their individual accounts on the authority’s smart services system, which allows individuals to print their residency details in just three steps.

The new procedures will be circulated to airlines to enable them to verify the validity of residences by checking passport numbers and Emirates ID cards, which contain residency information.

The move also aligns with a recent law announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, the Ruler of Dubai, which seeks to accelerate the emirate’s digital transformation, enhance the provision of digital services, and promote the digitisation of services in both the public and private sectors.

COVID-19 Cases Rise, But Americans Are Eager To Move On

The nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C., has been hit with a string of high-profile cases in Congress and the administration, and cases in the city overall are on the rise. New York and other areas in the Northeast are also seeing increases, with Philadelphia announcing on Monday that it will reintroduce a requirement that people wear masks in indoor public places.  

But there are important ways that any coming spike in COVID-19 cases, fueled by a subvariant of omicron known as BA.2, is likely to be less damaging than previous surges, experts say. And that may lead the nation to treat a new rise in cases different.

First, it is not clear how steep any spike will be. While there are now upticks in the Northeast, there are not yet signs of the massive spike that hit over the winter. That omicron variant-fueled spike already infected many people, helping provide them some immunity against the current outbreak, in addition to the immunity provided by vaccines and booster shots.  

Second, people who are vaccinated and boosted still have strong protection against severe illness, even if it is possible they will get a milder infection. A new treatment, the Pfizer pill known as Paxlovid, cuts the risk of hospitalization or death by about 90 percent for people who do get infected.  

That combination of vaccines, booster shots and treatments means that even if cases rise, the hope is that hospitalizations and deaths will not rise by as sharp a degree.  

The White House is counting on booster shots and treatments to fight any new increase for the moment, rather than blunter tools like mask mandates or business closures. 

“We don’t have to let it dictate our lives anymore,” Ashish Jha, the new White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said on MSNBC on Monday. “If you’re vaccinated, boosted, you’re going to be highly protected. We have a lot of therapy now that’s widely available now for people who are at all higher risk, so even if you have a breakthrough infection, you can get treatments. That means that the virus should not control our lives anymore.” 

Fitting this new approach, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the end of February issued new guidance saying that people do not need to wear masks unless hospitalizations increase markedly, not just cases.  

“As long as hospitals do not become overwhelmed again, restrictions should not need to return,” said Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University. “Restrictions should not come back just to prevent infection.” 

President Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, gave some support to Wen’s position in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.  

“We’re at that point where in many respects she’s correct, that we’re going to have to live with some degree of virus in the community,” Fauci said when asked about Wen’s views.  

As cases tick up, he added, “what we’re hoping happens, and I believe it will, is that you won’t see a concomitant comparable increase in severity, in the sense of people requiring hospitalizations and deaths.” 

There is still debate among experts about the new approach of focusing more on hospitalizations than cases.  

An example is the return of Philadelphia’s indoor mask mandate. The city cited rising cases in bringing the mandate back, even though the CDC metrics, which are based more on hospitalizations, say the city is at a “low” COVID-19 level that does not require masks for all.  

Asked about differing with the CDC, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said at a press conference: “We’ve all seen here in Philadelphia how much our history of redlining, history of disparities has impacted particularly our Black and brown communities in the city.” 

“And so it does make sense to be more careful in Philadelphia than perhaps in an affluent suburb,” she added.  

People who are immunocompromised are still at higher risk even with vaccines. Asked about more vulnerable people, Wen said that people could test as an extra layer of precaution before seeing an elderly relative, for example, but that it is “unreasonable” to expect all of society to keep its activities restricted for a third year with vaccines now available.  

Even if people are not hospitalized, there is also the risk of “long COVID,” lingering symptoms like fatigue and difficulty concentrating even months after one first gets ill. An American Medical Association fact sheet puts the risk of long COVID at 10 percent to 30 percent of patients, while noting that being vaccinated can help reduce the risk.   

United Nations & Its Leadership Challenged By An Existential Crisis

The other day a friend asked me “Can Russia be expelled from the General Assembly by a two-thirds majority?”  Almost impossible to do that, I responded.

Two of the articles of the Charter of the United Nations relate to the issue of possible exclusion of Russia from the United Nations. Article 5 talks about suspension and Article 6 talks about expulsion. According to those articles, the action needs be taken by the General Assembly with two-thirds majority, upon the recommendation of the Security Council. That recommendation of the Council cannot be made as it is subject to veto by the Russian Federation as one of the five Permanent Members.

The obvious follow-up question was “Has any country been ever expelled or suspended from the General Assembly?”  The U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) has effectively excluded a state on three occasions: Cambodia in 1997, Yugoslavia in 1992 and South Africa in 1974.

UNGA Resolution 47/1 was adopted on 22 September 1992 expelled Yugoslavia from the UN General Assembly. In this case, the Security Council by its Resolution 777 (1992) recommended action under Article 6 of the UN Charter, considering that the nation known as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had ceased to exist and therefore recommended to the General Assembly to exclude Yugoslavia from General Assembly and asked the country as constituted to apply for membership in the United Nations.

Some countries tried to expel South Africa, which was one of the 51 founding members of the United Nations in 1945, because of its policy of apartheid, but the three permanent members of the Security Council – France, UK, and US – used their veto power to block that move.

After the Council informed the General Assembly on its failure to adopt a resolution, the then President of the General Assembly, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, ruled that the delegation of South Africa should be refused participation in the work of the General Assembly. His ruling was upheld by 91 votes to 22, with 19 abstentions on 12 November 1974.

Although remaining a member of the UN, South Africa was not represented at subsequent sessions of the General Assembly. Following South Africa’s successful democratic elections of May 1994, after 20 years of refusing to accept the credentials of the South African delegation, the General Assembly unanimously welcomed South Africa back to full participation in the United Nations on 23 June 1994. It also deleted its agenda item on “the elimination of apartheid and the establishment of a united, democratic and nonracial South Africa.”

It is also important recall that in 1962, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling on all member states to impose a trade boycott against South Africa. A US Congressional legislation aimed to ban all new U.S. trade and investment in South Africa and that acted as a catalyst for similar sanctions in Europe and Japan. In 1963, the UN Security Council called for partial arms ban against South Africa, but this was not mandatory under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Deadlock but not dead-end – other courses of action

As mentioned earlier, the suspension or expulsion of Russia is “almost impossible” according to the UN Charter. To that, I would add that it is a deadlock but not a dead-end.

Some UN watchers are of the opinion that there are still ways to limit Russia’s presence in the U.N. beyond the Security Council as has been decided today (7 April) by the UNGA to suspend its membership in the UN Human Rights Council.

According to the General Assembly’s 1950 resolution 377A (V), widely known as ‘Uniting for Peace’, if the Security Council is unable to act because of the lack of unanimity among its five veto-wielding permanent members, the Assembly has the power to make recommendations to the wider UN membership for collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.

For instance. most frequently, the Security Council determines when and where a UN peace operation should be deployed, but historically, when the Council has been unable to take a decision, the General Assembly has done so. For example, in 1956, the General Assembly established the First UN Emergency Force (UNEF I) in the Middle East.

In addition, the General Assembly may meet in Emergency Special Session if requested by nine members of the Security Council or by a majority of the Members of the Assembly. To date, the General Assembly has held 11 Emergency Special Sessions (8 of which have been requested by the Security Council).

On 1 March 2022, the General Assembly, meeting in emergency session, adopted a resolution by which it deplored “the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2 (4) of the Charter. Can any other process feasibly be exploited to suspend a state in such circumstances, as a way of circumventing article 5? Yes, there is a way to try that.

Though the General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, but they are considered to carry political weight as they express the will of the wider UN membership.

Some UN watchers believe that Article 5 of the Charter is not completely the end of the road on suspension. They are of the opinion that that there are two dimensions to a state’s participation in the UN: the actual membership of the state (the subject of article 5 of the Charter); and the representation of that state at the General Assembly’s sessions.

Matters of representation are considered in the context of the General Assembly’s credentials process, which is the process by which the Assembly assesses the eligibility of individual delegates to represent their states at the Assembly’s annual sessions. The process is essentially procedural in nature. It is regulated not by the UN Charter but by the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure.

While the credentials process is usually a procedural one, the credentials process effectively gives the General Assembly the power to decide which authority should be regarded as the legitimate representative of the state – at least so far as the UN is concerned. UNGA could vote to suspend Russian delegation from participating in the General Assembly, a step that does not require the Security Council.

In this context, it has been asserted that “ This move, which would strip Russia of its right to speak or vote at the UN but allow it to retain membership, previously happened in 1974, when diplomats voted to suspend South Africa for its apartheid system.”

Veto is the Chief Culprit

The headline of my opinion piece for the IPS wire of 8 March 2022 argued that “Veto is the Chief Culprit” emphasizing that “Expulsion or Suspension is Not the Remedy”. Since 1946, all five permanent members have exercised the right of veto at one time or another on a variety of issues.

To date, approximately 49 per cent of the vetoes had been cast by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and thereafter the Russian Federation, 29 per cent by the United States, 10 per cent by the United Kingdom, and six per cent each by China and France.

I repeat my main contention in that opinion as “The chief culprit in the failure of unified global action by the UN is the continuation of the irrational practice of veto. As a matter, I have said on record that, if only one reform action could be taken, it should be the abolition of veto. Believe me, the veto power influences not only the decisions of the Security Council but also all work of the UN, including importantly the choice of the Secretary-General.”

Further, I added, “I believe the abolition of veto requires a greater priority attention in the reforms process than the enlargement of the Security Council membership with additional permanent ones. Such permanency is simply undemocratic. I believe that the veto power is not “the cornerstone of the United Nations” but in reality, its tombstone.”

Proactive UN leadership missing

Amid all these legal explanations, diplomatic exchanges, and diverse conjectures, it is unfortunate that questions have been raised about the reticence of the UN Secretary-General in getting his hands dirty and in getting more actively involved in towards ending the Russian aggression and promoting peace in Ukraine.

As much as I recall, this is first time the world public has done that about the role of the UN leadership so vocally. The UN website mentions “near daily press stakeouts by the Secretary-General” on the war in Ukraine. Is this the extent of his active role and involvement?

Well-respected UN watcher and former high UN official Kul Chandra Gautam in an opinion piece recently even exhorted the SG “not to hide behind the glasshouse at Turtle Bay and go beyond invisible subtle diplomacy to more visible shuttle diplomacy.” That is the way to go.

On 3 April, the UN website publicized a Twitter message from the SG saying: “I am deeply shocked by the images of civilians killed in Bucha, Ukraine. It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability.”

Just two pitiable sentences in Twitter (I wonder how many of the global population has a Twitter account). His operatives – the UN secretariat – misled the world by the trick headline: “UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday called for an independent investigation into the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, a suburb of the capital, Kyiv.”

Which official language(s) of the UN would interpret “It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability” as “called for an independent investigation”? This is the height of public deception. I wonder why this is necessary.

The Ukraine President lamented on 5 April about the failure of UN Security Council saying that the Council can “dissolve yourselves altogether” if there is nothing it can do other than engage in conversation. First time, a UN Member State has spoken so frankly, so openly, so rightly in a speech before the Council which was at an impasse to stop the aggression in his country.

Unfortunately, it is widely understood that for the UN system, more so for the SG, the dominant instinct for being pro-active in any crisis situation is “the fear of failure.” That “fear” determines the process of decision-making in a big way. A global organization like UN should be smart and mature enough to understand the value of critical opinions to improve its efficacy. Unfortunately, we are not there.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is Former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN; President of the UN Security Council (2000 and 2001); Senior Special Adviser to UN General Assembly President (2011-2012) and Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN.

Marine Le Pen To ‘Win’ French Election, Even If She Loses

The first round of the French Presidential election is scheduled for Sunday, April 10 and the race between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron is growing tighter. 

Mabel Berezin is a comparative sociologist at Cornell University whose work explores fascist, nationalist and populist movements in Europe and associated threats to democracy. Berezin says:  “In this year of major European elections, France was supposed to be the predictable election. For the second time, Emmanuel Macron is likely to run against Marine Le Pen, leader of the Rassemblement National, formerly extreme-right Front. When Russian President Vladimir Putin marched into Ukraine, the standard election media narrative was that Macron, the sitting French President, despite being widely unpopular, would be re-elected easily. 

“However, analysts of all stripes are not as confident in a Macron victory as they were merely a week ago. In 2017, Le Pen lost to Macron by 34 percentage points. Now, polls on the second-round place her at 46% versus Macron at 54%. This is close enough to elicit worry. 

“Le Pen is on her third try for the French Presidency. She had more competitors this time than she had in 2017. Eric Zemmour tried to outflank her on the right; Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the left. Why is she moving ahead of her competitors? She has chosen to run on economic issues and to downplay her usual line on immigration and security.

“In 2017, when she conceded the election to Macron, she argued that the future political debate in France would be between the ‘globalists’ and the ‘patriots’ – the latter referring to citizens rooted in place and dependent on national institutions. This is not only a French debate. It is increasingly a transnational debate as evidenced by its salience in recent elections across the globe. Marine Le Pen has identified and owns the conceptual frame of a new political moment. Whatever happens on April 24, she wins.”

US Rights Groups Ask USCIRF Not To Heed To Pressure To Dilute Report On Religious Freedom In India

Hundreds of U.S.-based civil rights and faith groups and individuals from across the country have condemned the pressure being placed on a prominent federal commission to dilute its reporting on religious persecution in India.

In a letter to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Sunday, these organizations and individuals said the commission must withstand the pressure from US-based Hindu nationalists and recommend again that the US Department of State designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), its harshest nomenclature for the world’s worst persecutors of religious minorities.

“It is clear that those seeking to obfuscate the reality of India’s persecution of its religious minorities are now using intense lobbying and combative communication with the goal of preventing USCIRF from recommending India’s designation as a CPC for the third straight year,” the letter said.

“We have also learned that such pressure includes attempts to influence USCIRF Commissioners and officials to exclude even a mention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi or his Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2022 report.”

The USCIRF has announced it will release its Annual Report for 2022 on April 25. Its last two reports in 2020 and 2021 had recommended that India be designated as CPC, along with China, Pakistan, Iran, Vietnam, Nigeria and several other countries. Both the Trump Administration and the Biden Administration did not accept that recommendation.

Leading organizations that have signed the letter include Indian American Muslim Council; Hindus for Human Rights; Jubilee Campaign USA; International Christian Concern; India Civil Watch International; Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations; Dalit Solidarity Forum in the USA; Cameroon American Council; Asian Children Education Fellowship; Association of Indian Muslims of America; International Society for Peace and Justice; Justice For All; Dar El Eman; Coeur d’Alene Bible Church; New Life Church; Fresh Heart Ministries; Director of Governmental Affairs, Greentree Global; pokane Fatherhood Initiative; Indian Muslim Association of Carolinas; Christian Freedom International; and International Asian Christian Front.

“We urge you to not allow Hindu supremacist individuals or organizations to influence the integrity of USCIRF in general and your annual report in particular. As you must know, religious persecution in India has only escalated since last year’s publication of USCIRF’s Annual Report 2021. More than ever before, Muslims, Christians and Dalits are under intense attacks and are experiencing massive human rights abuses as well as diminishing space for religious freedom,” their letter said.

Thousands of Muslims,Christians, and human rights advocates had been jailed under “draconian laws” such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. “Vigilante mobs connected to Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have mushroomed across the country, attacking Christians ,Muslims, and Dalits, often lynching them to death.

“Karnataka, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, three states under BJP rule, have passed highly discriminatory laws targeting these two minority communities in the name of anti-conversion. Churches and mosques are vandalized and outrightly demolished by officials, as happened near the Indian capital of New Delhi and in Uttar Pradesh.

“In December 2021, repeated calls were made by saffron-robed Hindu “monks” calling for a genocide of millions of Muslims, for sexual violence against Muslim women, and much more. The past year also saw the highest attacks on record on Indian Christians, including large-scale assault and vandalism on Christmas Day, December 25.

“The Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India recorded 505 incidents of hate against Christians in 2021, including threats and harassment, physical violence, false accusations of conversion, desecration of houses of worship, arbitrary arrests, hate campaigns, and more. USCIRF must not ignore the significant  decline of democracy in India that is accompanied by most horrific forms of religious persecution.

US Life Expectancy Declined In 2021

Life expectancy in the United States took another hit in 2021, furthering a dramatic decline from 2020 that was the largest since World War II, according to a new report.

The study — published Thursday on the preprint server medRxiv, which means it has not been peer-reviewed — found that after falling nearly 1.9 years in 2020, life expectancy in the US decreased another 0.4 years in 2021 as Covid-19 continued to spread.

“Although the introduction and availability of effective vaccines were expected to curb US mortality rates in 2021, slow vaccine uptake and the spread of the Delta variant produced large surges in mortality,” the researchers wrote.

With a brief exception in the summer of 2021, Covid-19 has consistently been one of the top three causes of death for the past two years in the US, an analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows.

In the decade before the pandemic, life expectancy in the US changed by an average of less than 0.1 years annually, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Changes to life expectancy amid the Covid-19 pandemic widened an existing gap between the US and other high-income countries, the new report shows. Among a set of 19 peer countries, life expectancy dropped only a third as much as in the US in 2020 (down 0.6 years, on average) and rebounded in 2021, with an average increase of about 0.3 years.

Life expectancy in the US fell from 78.9 years in 2019 to 76.6 years in 2021 — now more than five years less than the average among peer nations.

“This speaks volumes about the life consequences of how the US handled the pandemic,” Dr. Steven Woolf, study author and director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a statement. “What happened in the U.S. is less about the variants than the levels of resistance to vaccination and the public’s rejection of practices, such as masking and mandates, to reduce viral transmission.”

In the US, there was a disproportionate decrease in life expectancy for Black and Hispanic people in 2020. But in 2021, White people had the largest losses, with life expectancy holding steady for Hispanic people and rising slightly for Black people.

For this study, Woolf and other researchers from the University of Colorado and the Urban Institute analyzed death data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the Human Mortality Database and other international statistical agencies.

$40 Billion Borrowed By US Consumers in February Alone

Americans got into a lot more debt in February this year as rampant inflation kept up the pressure, the Federal Reserve’s consumer credit report showed last week. Debt levels jumped by nearly $42 billion to a total of almost $4.5 trillion. That’s an annual increase of 11.3%, seasonally adjusted, far outperforming economists’ expectations and setting a new high. In January, total credit had grown only 2.4%.

The Fed’s historical consumer credit data goes back to the early 1940s. Revolving credit, which includes credit cards, jumped by 20.7% to about $1.1 trillion. The category increased by only 4% in the prior month.

Nonrevolving credit, such as student or car loans, grew by 8.4% to $3.4 trillion, also outpacing a smaller January gain.

Americans have been challenged with a rapid pace of price increases everywhere, from the grocery store to the gas station. Year-over-year inflation has increased at a pace not seen in 40 years.

Consumer spending has kept up the pace so far, but it is not immediately clear whether that’s because people are paying more for the same items that got more expensive or are actually buying more goods and services.

In late February, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine jolted global energy markets and boosted the price of gasoline. With prices at the pump rising higher in March, credit card spending is unlikely to have gone down after the February jump.

Biden’s Nominee To Be US Envoy, Garcetti May Not Make It To India

Concerns are mounting on Capitol Hill around the viability of Mayor Eric Garcett’s India ambassadorship nomination. AXIOS reported on March 3rd that US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s team is privately acknowledging to Senate Democrats that Eric Garcetti doesn’t currently have 50 votes within their caucus to be confirmed as ambassador to India, congressional aides reportedly told Axios.

The comments by the Senate majority leader’s office, delivered last week through his legislative director during a call with other LDs, mean the Los Angeles mayor is unlikely to receive a floor vote any time soon, Axios reported. Garcetti was formally nominated eight months ago.

His remarks also indicate the growing concern — and confusion — within the Democratic Party about the fate of President Biden’s nominee to serve as ambassador to a crucial country resisting the administration’s efforts to get tougher on Russia.

Politico reported last week thatAs the US Senate considered making Garcetti emissary to the world’s biggest democracy, the consternation was initially confined to the GOP: Republican Iowa Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley both placed holds on Garcetti’s nomination last month over allegations that Garcetti knew of sexual misconduct in his office, when he was the mayor of Los Angeles.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has placed a “hold” on Garcetti’s nomination, pending his own independent investigations into the allegations. Sen. Joni Ernest (R-Iowa) has placed a second hold on the nomination. The core of the allegations stems from a lawsuit filed by Los Angeles Police Department officer Matthew Garza, who claimed that Rick Jacobs, while the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, sexually harassed him. Jacobs has denied the allegations and Garcetti has denied being aware of them.

As per reports by Politico, the Biden administration dispatched a State Department emissary to mollify anxious Democratic Senate staffers about Garcetti. Perennial swing vote Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has not made up her mind — once again raising the prospect that the Arizona Democrat could deny her party a unified vote, which would effectively torpedo Garcetti’s chances in a 50-50 Senate.

AXIOS reports that Schumer’s team was asked about the timing of a possible Garcetti vote during a weekly call designed to provide a big-picture issues overview to Senate offices. The staffer’s comments were based on the public indications from some Democratic senators — a number of whom have said they want more information about allegations of workplace sexual harassment before supporting Garcetti. “At this time, Schumer’s office is not formally “whipping” the vote — asking senators how they plan to vote.” The comments were made before Axios reported Thursday last week that Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) had “concerns” about the allegations. That brought the public number of wavering Democratic senators to five.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee looked into the allegations and concluded Garcetti had been truthful in a legal deposition during which he denied any knowledge. Garcetti’s nomination was voted out of committee in January without Republican opposition.

On March 25, a State Department official briefed Senate chiefs of staff, explaining the allegations had been investigated by the department and the committee and they determined Garcetti didn’t know about the alleged behavior. A Biden administration representative reiterated last week that Garcetti still has the administration’s confidence, saying both the State Department and the White House were calling senators on his behalf.

Falguni Shah, Ricky Kej Win Grammy Awards 2022

Two musicians of Indian origin and one of Pakistani descent were among the winners at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards, given out to musicians during a glittering annual Emmy Awards nite on Sundsay April 3rd , held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, the 2022 Grammys.

The internationally acclaimed and watched the world over on live media streams saw a number of first-time winners from the Indian subcontinent. Falguni ‘Falu’ Shah bagged her maiden trophy for the category of ‘Best Children’s Music Album.’ Composer Ricky Kej repeated his 2015 win with the ‘Best New Album’ award. while Pakistani-American artist Arooj Aftab became the first ever female Pakistani to be on the winning list. The Brooklyn-based artist won in the ‘Best Global Music Performance’ category.

The New York-based artist Falguni ‘Falu’ Shah bagged the award for the ‘Best Children’s Music Album’ category for her album, ‘A Colourful World’. Shah has previously worked with A.R. Rahman for Slumdog Millionaire and has received training under the legendary sarangi player and master Ustad Sultan Khan. 

This marks her first victory at the Grammy Awards. The artist’s acceptance speech revealed the inspiration behind the album. In her acceptance speech at the awards, she said, “Who would have thought that having my mother sing an old children’s lullaby from India would get a response from parents in America?”

The performer also posted a picture of herself with her award on Instagram celebrating her win. In the caption alongside, she wrote, “I have no words to describe today’s magic. What an honor to perform for the opening number of the GRAMMY Premier Ceremony, and then take home a statue on behalf of all the incredible people who worked on A Colorful World. We are humbled and thank the Recording Academy for this tremendous recognition. THANK YOU!”

Kej, in collaboration with Stewart Copeland, took home the award for ‘Best New Age Album’ for ‘Divine Tides’. This is Kej’s second win after 2015 while Copeland has a total of six Grammys. “Won the Grammy Award today for our album Divine Tides Filled with gratitude and love this living-legend standing with me – @copelandmusic . My 2nd Grammy and Stewart’s 6th. Thank you to everyone who ever collaborated, hired, or listened to my music. I exist because of you,” he tweeted after winning the award.

Arooj brought home the first Grammy for her song ‘Mohabbat’. The Brooklyn-based singer won in the category of ‘Best Global Music Performance’. Arooj’s work is a confluence of Sufi traditions mixed with folk, jazz and minimalism. She has been receiving global recognition for her work in recent years.

The 2022 Grammys, which kicked off on Sunday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, was hosted by Trevor Noah. At the event, singer Olivia Rodrigo made an impressive Grammy debut, Silk Sonic claimed two major awards and Jon Batiste had the most stunning victory of the night winning the top prize at Grammy Awards.

A R. Rahman was also spotted at the award function. However, much like the Oscars, the ‘In Memoriam’ section missed paying tribute to Indian maestro Lata Mangeshkar. While her name was included in the official website, it did not make it to the mentions at the live event on Sunday night.

The US Warns India Of Consequences For Circumventing Sanctions Against Russia

India has come under pressure from the U.S. and Western countries to take a tougher position with Russia, a country with which it has long had strong ties. Top diplomats from the U.S., Russia, and Europe have traveled to India last week for separate meetings with officials in New Delhi, underlining the efforts by Moscow and Washington to get India more on its side in the international battle over Russia’s invasion and bombardment of Ukraine.

US Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Daleep Singh, a key architect of the Biden administration’s sanctions against Russia, traveled to meet with officials from India’s government this week. While there, he criticized New Delhi’s imports of Russian oil and its reliance on military hardware from Moscow.

There will be consequences for countries looking to circumvent the US sanctions against Russia, the US warned even as Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in India last week on March 31st. Visiting US deputy NSA Daleep Singh, who was in India and is leading US efforts to sanction Russia, didn’t specify the consequences but said these were part of private discussions and the US would not like to see any country attempting to take advantage of the current situation.

“The conversation I’ve had here is that we stand ready to help India diversify its energy resources, much like is the case for defense resources over a period of time,” Singh said at the briefing, according to media reports.

The Biden administration and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have grown increasingly frustrated that India has been on the sidelines of the pressure campaign against Moscow.

India has abstained from all United Nations votes condemning Russia and has made no moves to impose sanctions against the Kremlin.

Singh emphasized that the democracies across the world, and specifically the Quad, to come together and voice their shared interests and their shared concerns about the developments in Ukraine and the implications for the Indo-Pacific,” Singh said. The US Deputy NSA said the impact of the Russian aggression if not checked will be devastating.

“Think of the chilling effect that would cause the uncertainties that would be raised, the signal that would be sent to autocrats all over the world that might wish to exert their own sphere of influence, bully their neighbors, perhaps right on India’s doorstep. And those are costs that we are not willing to accept,” he said.

Singh said the US had not set any red line for India to follow, as the latter seeks to buy oil from Russia at a discount, and that India’s current energy import from Russia didn’t violate any US sanction as there was an exemption for energy imports. Indian sources, while not naming the US, had said earlier this month that countries with oil self-sufficiency could not “credibly advocate” restrictive trading with Russia.

The US commerce secretary and the Australian trade minister criticized India for considering a Russian proposal to buy oil that would undermine sanctions. “Now is the time to stand on the right side of history, and to stand with the US and dozens of other countries, and not funding and fuelling and aiding President Putin’s war,” commerce secretary Gina Raimondo said in Washington. Dan Tehan, Australia’s trade minister, said it was important for democracies to work together “to keep the rules-based approach that we’ve had since the second world war”.

The Ukraine crisis figured prominently in talks between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his visiting British counterpart Liz Truss on Thursday. “Foreign secretary Liz Truss is in India as part of a wider diplomatic push following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine last month,” a British High Commission statement said. On Wednesday, German security and foreign policy adviser Jens Plotner had met with India officials.

Despite the fact that relations between the United States and India have improved in recent years, including during the Trump administration, experts on the matter said India is likely to want to maintain its partnership with Russia — which goes back to the Cold War.

“There’s a lot of momentum in U.S.-India relations, and I think Russia now, unfortunately, brings to bear one of the real sore points in the relationship, that India wants to maintain it at all costs,” said Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst with the RAND Corporation.

Donald Lu, the top State Department official focused on U.S. relations with India, told lawmakers earlier this month that officials have been in a “pitched battle” to convince New Delhi to more bluntly condemn Russia, and are weighing whether to impose congressionally mandated sanctions over New Delhi’s earlier purchase of a Russian missile defense system, the S-400.

Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), the ranking member with oversight of U.S. foreign relations in South Asia, told The Hill in a statement he opposed sanctioning India, but urged New Delhi to separate itself from Moscow. “India remains a critical partner in the Quad Security Dialogue as they work with the U.S. to combat China in Asia, and around the globe,” Young said. “I hope this will be the moment that India realizes the liability that its longstanding defense relationship with Russia means for their security in the future.”

Former Indian foreign secretary and ex-ambassador to China and the U.S. Nirupama Rao tweeted on Saturday that “our relations with the West matter significantly to us but pressure that we see as unreasonable can’t work.”

Pope Francis Condemns ‘Sacrilegious War’ In Ukraine, While Biden Calls Putin A War Criminal

Pope Francis has denounced Russia’s “repugnant war” against Ukraine as “cruel and sacrilegious inhumanity.” In some of his strongest words yet since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, Francis on Sunday told thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square that every day brings more atrocities in what is a “senseless massacre.”

Pope Francis who has always been in the forefront denouncing violence, said, “Sadly, the violent aggression against Ukraine does not stop, a senseless massacre where each day slaughter and atrocities are repeated,” the pope said March 20th after reciting the midday Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

“There is no justification for this!” he told an estimated 30,000 people who had come to the square to pray with him. Pope Francis once again urged international leaders to work together to put an end “to this repugnant war.”

Meanwhile, in the strongest of criticisms mounted on Russian President Vladimir Putin, American President Joe Biden called Putin a “war criminal,” a rhetorical leap that came as civilian deaths mount in Ukraine. Speaking with reporters last week, Biden affixed the designation on the Russian leader. “I think he is a war criminal,” the President said during remarks at the White House.

It was the harshest condemnation of Putin’s actions from any US official since the war in Ukraine began three weeks ago. Previously, Biden had stopped short of labeling atrocities being documented on the ground in Ukraine as “war crimes,” citing ongoing international and US investigations.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, missiles and bombs have continued to fall “on civilians, the elderly, children and pregnant mothers,” he said. “I went to see the wounded children here in Rome. One of them is missing an arm, the other has a head wound,” he said. That happened to “innocent children.”

While Biden had traveled to Europe to solidify a united front against Russian aggression and devastation on Ukraine, Pope Francis had gone on March 19 to the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital where some 50 Ukrainian children had been cared for since the war began. Initially, the Vatican said, most of the young Ukrainian patients were brought to Rome for treatment for cancer, neurological or other diseases. Pope Francis also drew attention to the almost 3.4 million people who have fled Ukraine, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

“And I feel great sorrow for those who don’t even have the chance to escape,” he said. “So many grandparents, sick and poor, are separated from their families,” the pope said; “so many children and fragile people are left to die under the bombs without receiving help and without finding safety even in air-raid shelters,” some of which have been bombed.

“All this is inhuman,” he said. “Indeed, it is even sacrilegious, because it goes against the sanctity of human life, especially against defenseless human life, which must be respected and protected, not eliminated, and which comes before any strategy!”

Pope Francis also expressed his gratitude for the bishops, priests and religious who have stayed with their people, living “under the bombs.” They are “living the Gospel of charity and fraternity.” “Thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for this witness and for the concrete support you are courageously offering to so many desperate people,” the pope said.

He specifically mentioned Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Lithuania-born nuncio to Ukraine, “who since the beginning of the war has remained in Kyiv” and is a sign of the pope’s closeness “to the tormented Ukrainian people.”

Pope Francis urged everyone to continue to pray for peace, to pray for the people of Ukraine and to offer concrete assistance to them. “And, please, let’s not get used to war and violence,” he said. “Let’s not tire of welcoming them (the refugees) with generosity, as we are doing.”

The assistance will need to continue for “weeks and months to come,” especially for the women and children forced to flee without their husbands and fathers and without work, which makes them targets of human traffickers, whom the pope called “vultures.”

While reminding the world, “Do not forget,” the pope said, “it is cruel, inhuman and sacrilegious!” He urged “every community and every believer to join me on Friday, March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, in making a solemn act of consecration of humanity, especially of Russia and Ukraine, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that she, the Queen of Peace, may obtain peace for the world.”

After Imran Khan Dissolves Pak Parliament, Court To Decide His Fate

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan avoided a no-confidence motion that was set to happen on  April 3rd, by dissolving the Pakistan Parliament ahead of the crucial vote. Now, Pakistan’s supreme court is expected to decide the fate of embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan, following a day of political turmoil.

Khan, who is facing the toughest challenge of his political career, requested the country’s president dissolve Parliament and called on the nation to prepare for a fresh election. Pakistan’s president Arif Alvi – who is from Khan’s ruling PTI party – dissolved parliament in a step towards early elections. The move has sparked anger among the opposition, with some politicians accusing Mr Khan of “treason” for not allowing the vote to go ahead. But in a television address and a series of late night tweets Khan defended the decision.

As per BBC reports, Khan has faced an attempt to oust him from office in recent days. But in a move that has roiled the country, members of Khan’s party on Sunday,  blocked a vote of no-confidence in the PM and dissolved Parliament. Elections are likely to follow and the question remains uncertain as to who will lead Pakistan into its 76th year after it gained independence from Britain and got separated from India as a Muslim majority country. No prime minister of Pakistan has ever completed a full term and, over the 75 years of its existence, Pakistan has failed to establish stable and effective political institutions.

Less than a day from a no-confidence vote that will almost certainly remove him from office, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan said that he would not accept the result of the vote, dismissing it as part of an American conspiracy against him and setting the stage for the country’s political crisis to drag on far beyond Sunday, as Khan fights to remain in politics, New York Timers reported.

For months, Khan has been battling depleting foreign exchange reserves and double digit inflation, with the cost of basic necessities such as food and fuel skyrocketing. Khan had claimed the vote was part of a US-led conspiracy to remove him, but the US has denied this. Furious opposition politicians have now filed a petition to the Supreme Court to rule on whether the move to block the vote was constitutional.

Pakistan’s main opposition parties have been rallying for Khan’s dismissal since he rose to power in 2018 after a dramatic election mired in accusations of vote rigging and foul play. Khan was widely regarded as having come to power with the help of Pakistan’s army, but they have since fallen out, according to observers. His political opponents then seized this opportunity to demand a no-confidence vote after persuading a number of his coalition partners to defect to them.

Khan’s perceived failure to work in tandem with his allies, as well as country’s powerful military, had led to a breakdown of relations within his coalition government. As per Times, the no-confidence vote slated for Sunday was the culmination of a political crisis that has consumed Pakistan for weeks after Khan, the international cricket star turned politician, appeared to lose support from the country’s powerful military last year and a coalition of opposition parties moved to vote him out of office last month.

The Times reported that, this week, the tide appeared to turn against Khan after several parties in his governing coalition split away — giving the opposition the simple majority needed in the 342-member National Assembly to remove him from office, and prompting calls for him to resign ahead of the vote.

According to reports, the country’s powerful military, which has not publicly taken a side in the current political crisis, seemed to distance itself from Khan’s policy agenda. Speaking at a security conference in Islamabad, the army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, said that Pakistan hoped to expand and deepen its ties with other countries, including the United States — a sharp rebuke to Mr. Khan’s foreign policy agenda distancing Pakistan from the United States. General Bajwa said that Pakistan “shares a long history of excellent and strategic relationship with the U.S.,” adding that the United States represents Pakistan’s largest exports market.

No Pakistani leader has completed a full five-year term as prime minister since the country’s formation in 1947. There are now concerns Khan’s move to call an early election could risk further political instability in the South Asian nation.

India’s FM Jaishankar Hold Talks With Russian FM Lavrov In Delhi

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday, April 1, 2022, just a day after the US warned of consequences for countries attempting to “circumvent” American sanctions against Moscow and stated that ties between the two countries have sustained them through difficult times in the past.

Russia’s foreign minister lauded India for not judging in a “one-sided way” as he discussed Moscow’s military involvement in Ukraine with his Indian counterpart, after Washington urged New Delhi to use its leverage with Russia to end the war. Jaishankar emphasized the importance of a cessation of violence but avoided condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Differences and disputes should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy and by respect for international law, the U.N. Charter, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states,” he said.

Lavrov praised India for judging “the situation in its entirety, not just in a one-sided way.” He expressed hope that mutual respect in search of a balance in ties will prevail in the future.

The Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted that both the leaders held bilateral talks. Lavrov arrived in New Delhi on Thursday evening after concluding a two-day visit to China. Ahead of the meeting, Jaishankar said their talks are taking place in a “difficult international environment quite apart from the pandemic”.

“India, as you are aware, has always been in favor of resolving differences and disputes through dialogue and diplomacy.  In our meeting today, we will have an opportunity to discuss contemporary issues and concerns in some detail. I look forward to our discussions,” the External Affairs Minister said.

Jaishankar also noted that 2022 is an “important year in our bilateral relations as we mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations”. “Despite the Covid related difficulties, last year turned out to be one of intense bilateral activity that included holding the inaugural 2+2 meeting and, of course, the 21st Annual Summit.”

He further said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin have been in “regular touch and have spoken to each other on multiple occasions this year”.

“Our bilateral relations has continued to grow in many areas and we have diversified our cooperation by expanding our agenda.”

Since the start of war, India has been facing pressure from the West and its allies to take a stronger stand against Russia. As the war between Russia and Ukraine cost India’s military capabilities dearly with delivery of many platforms like nuclear powered submarines, Grigorovich class frigates, Fighter jets, Triumf S-400, AK 203 assault rifle and others were expected to delay.

Lavrov also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and briefed him on the situation in Ukraine, including ongoing peace negotiations, the Indian foreign ministry said. Modi urged an “early cessation of violence, and conveyed India’s readiness to contribute in any way to the peace efforts,″ it said in a statement. Asked by journalists if Modi could mediate between Moscow and Kyiv, Lavrov replied, “I haven’t heard about such talk, frankly speaking. Given India’s position of a just and rational approach toward international problems, it can support such a process. No one is against it, I think,” he said.

India was Moscow’s ally during the Cold War but has since sought to maintain ties with both Russia and Western nations. Experts say up to 60% of Indian defense equipment was acquired from Russia. In the early 1990s, about 70% of Indian army weapons, 80% of its air force systems and 85% of its navy platforms were of Soviet origin. India is now reducing its dependency on Russian arms and diversifying its defense procurement, buying more from the United States, Israel, France, and Italy. But Indian energy dependency on Russia remains a factor in relations

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. expects India to use its relations with Russia to help end the war in Ukraine. “Different countries are going to have their own relationship with the Russian Federation. It’s a fact of history, it’s a fact of geography. That is not something that we are seeking to change,“ Price told reporters in Washington. He said the U.S. is looking for its friends and allies to speak in unison and loudly against the “unjustified, unprovoked, premeditated Russian aggression.”

Biden’s Order To Release Oil From Strategic Petroleum Reserve To Reduce Gas Prices ‘Fairly Significantly’

US President Joe Biden announced last week that his administration will release 1 million barrels of oil per day for the next six months from its strategic reserve in an effort a bid to control energy prices that have spiked after the United States and allies imposed steep sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The releasing of over 180 million barrels from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the “largest” release from national reserve in the country’s history, Biden said in a speech from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Thursday.

The president said it was not known how much gasoline prices could decline as a result of his move, but he suggested it might be “anything from 10 cents to 35 cents a gallon.” Gas is averaging about $4.23 a gallon, compared with $2.87 a year ago, according to AAA.

“As Russian oil comes off the global market, supply of oil drops and prices are rising,” he said, acknowledging the US energy embargo on Russia would “come with a cost”.

“The bottom line is if we want lower gas prices we need to have more oil supply right now,” Biden said. “This is a moment of consequence and peril for the world, and pain at the pump for American families.”

The president also wants Congress to impose financial penalties on oil and gas companies that lease public lands but are not producing. He said he will invoke the Defense Production Act to encourage the mining of critical minerals for batteries in electric vehicles, part of a broader push to shift toward cleaner energy sources and reduce the use of fossil fuels. The actions show that oil remains a vulnerability for the U.S. Higher prices have hurt Biden’s approval domestically and added billions of oil-export dollars to the Russian government as it wages war on Ukraine.

Tapping the stockpile would create pressures that could reduce oil prices, though Biden has twice ordered releases from the reserves without causing a meaningful shift in oil markets. Biden said Thursday he expects gasoline prices could drop “fairly significantly.”

Part of Biden’s concern is that high prices have not so far coaxed a meaningful jump in oil production. The planned release is a way to increase supplies as a bridge until oil companies ramp up their own production, with administration officials estimating that domestic production will grow by 1 million barrels daily this year and an additional 700,000 barrels daily in 2023.

The markets reacted quickly with crude oil prices dropping about 6% in Thursday trading to roughly $101 a barrel. Still, oil is up from roughly $60 a year ago, with supplies failing to keep up with demand as the world economy has begun to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic. That inflationary problem was compounded by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which created new uncertainties about oil and natural gas supplies and led to retaliatory sanctions from the U.S. and its allies.

Stewart Glickman, an oil analyst for CFRA Research, said the release would bring short-term relief on prices and would be akin to “taking some Advil for a headache.” But markets would ultimately look to see whether, after the releases stop, the underlying problems that led to Biden’s decisions remain.

“The root cause of the headache is probably still going to be there after the medicine wears off,” Glickman said. Biden has been in talks with allies and partners to join in additional releases of oil, such that the world market will get more than the 180 million barrels total being pledged by the U.S.

Americans on average use about 21 million barrels of oil daily, with about 40% of that devoted to gasoline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That total accounts for about one-fifth of total global consumption of oil.

Domestic oil production is equal to more than half of U.S. usage, but high prices have not led companies to return to their pre-pandemic levels of output. The U.S. is producing on average 11.7 million barrels daily, down from 13 million barrels in early 2020.

“Look, the action I’m calling for will make a real difference over time. But the truth is it takes months, not days, for companies to increase production,” he said on Thursday. In his address, Biden also highlighted the importance of US energy independence and called for a transition to clean energy.

“Ultimately, we and the whole world need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels altogether. We need to choose long-term security over energy and climate vulnerability,” he said. Biden, who faces with mounting pressure to address a surging inflation ahead of the midterm elections, blamed the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s military action for rising gas prices.

Republican lawmakers have said the problem results from the administration being hostile to oil permits and the construction of new pipelines such as the Keystone XL. Democrats say the country needs to move to renewable energy such as wind and solar that could reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and Putin’s leverage.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., blasted Biden’s action to tap the reserve without first taking steps to increase American energy production, calling it “a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.″ Daines called Biden’s actions “desperate moves″ that avoid what he called the real solution: ”investing in American energy production,″ and getting “oil and gas leases going again.”

The administration says increasing oil output is a gradual process and the release would provide time to ramp up production. It also wants to incentivize greater production by putting fees on unused leases on government lands, something that would require congressional approval.

Oil producers have been more focused on meeting the needs of investors than consumers, according to a survey released last week by the Dallas Federal Reserve.

About 59% of the executives surveyed said investor pressure to preserve “capital discipline” amid high prices was the reason they weren’t pumping more, while fewer than 10% blamed government regulation.

In his remarks last week, Biden tried to shame oil companies that he said are focused on profits instead of putting out more barrels, saying that adding to the oil supply was a patriotic obligation.

“This is not the time to sit on record profits: It’s time to step up for the good of your country,” the president said.

The steady release from the reserves would be a meaningful sum and come near to closing the domestic production gap relative to February 2020, before the coronavirus caused a steep decline in oil output.

Still, the politics of oil are complicated with industry advocates and environmentalists both criticizing the planned release. Groups such as the American Petroleum Institute want to make drilling easier, while environmental organizations say energy companies should be forced to pay a special tax on windfall profits instead.

The administration in November announced the release of 50 million barrels from the strategic reserve in coordination with other countries. And after the Russia-Ukraine war began, the U.S. and 30 other countries agreed to an additional release of 60 million barrels from reserves, with half of the total coming from the U.S.

According to the Department of Energy, which manages it, more than 568 million barrels of oil were held in the reserve as of March 25. After the release, the government would begin to replenish the reserve once prices have sufficiently fallen.

AAHOA Announces Release Of Its Updated 12 Points Of Fair Franchising

AAHOA announced that it has released its updated 12 Points of Fair Franchising in the form of a new resource guide for AAHOA Member-Franchisees, “An Educational Primer: A Best-Practice Approach to Designing, Developing, and Implementing Best-in-class, Mutually Beneficial Franchise Systems.”

AAHOA’s revised 12 Points of Fair Franchising continue our mission and commitment to educating AAHOA Members, helping to fulfill our vision to be the foremost advocate and resource for America’s hotel owners. Ultimately, the updated 12 Points reflect the current business landscape and the long-term, mutually beneficial relationship between industry Franchisors and Franchisees.

“Because of the changing business environment post-COVID-19 and the ever-evolving need to educate our members, it was time for AAHOA to revisit the 12 Points and review them carefully to ensure that they’re relevant and reflective of industry changes and evolution,” AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel said.

Released via a new landing page on AAHOA.com (AAHOA.com/12Points) and a new Resource Guide created specifically for AAHOA Member-Franchisees, AAHOA’s updated 12 Points serve as an educational primer for hospitality Franchisors and AAHOA Members (current and future hospitality Franchisees) to discuss and use to continue designing, developing, and implementing best-in-class, mutually beneficial franchise systems.

“In order to fulfill this mission, AAHOA created the 12 Points of Fair Franchising Ad Hoc Committee, which was tasked with recommending revisions to the 12 Points of Fair Franchising,” Patel said. “And I’m pleased to announce today that, with the help, support, and input of the 12 Points of Fair Franchising Ad Hoc Committee and the AAHOA Board of Directors, we’re releasing the updated 12 Points of Fair Franchising.”

AAHOA recognizes that brands are our business partners and through the update of the 12 Points of Fair Franchising, AAHOA aims to continue the open dialogue, collaboration, and mutual understanding of franchise best practices.

The revised 12 Points can also be used by Franchisors to better understand the needs of their industry partners and Franchisees.

“I recommend every AAHOA Member-Franchisee review the 12 Points in their entirety to familiarize themselves with the content and best practices for fruitful Franchisee-Franchisor relationships and to better understand the provisions in franchise agreements,” Patel said.

ABOUT THE 12 POINTS
In 1998, AAHOA identified certain best practices for the hospitality franchise system. AAHOA called those best practices the 12 Points of Fair Franchising (“12 Points”). AAHOA has continuously updated the 12 Points to reflect business changes and the long-term, mutually beneficial relationship between industry Franchisors and Franchisees. The revised 12 Points continue this mission as an educational primer for hospitality Franchisors and AAHOA Members (current and future hospitality Franchisees) to discuss and use to continue designing, developing, and implementing best-in-class, mutually beneficial franchise systems.

ABOUT AAHOA
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.

Among 108,000 New Immigrants To Canada, Indians Top The List

Canada, which plans to admit a record 432,000 new immigrants in 2022, is on target to hit this mark as the country welcomed 108,000 newcomers in the first three months of the year.

“Canada is proud to be a destination of choice for so many people around the world, and we will continue to work hard to provide the best experience possible for them,” said Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, releasing the figures for the first quarter on Thursday.

Though there is no country-wise break-up of the numbers, Indians are the top immigrant group to take up residence in Canada this year.

In 2021, nearly 100,000 Indians became permanent residents of Canada as the country admitted a record 405,000 new immigrants in its history.

During 2021-2022, over 210,000 permanent residents also acquired Canadian citizenship.

As per figures released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), it also issued 450,000 study permit applications.

As per figures released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), it also issued 450,000 study permit applications. As of December 31, 2021, of the approximately 622,000 foreign students in Canada, Indians number as high as 217,410.

The Indian Parliament was informed that as of March 20, this year, a total of 1,33,135 Indian students have already gone abroad for higher studies. There are over 622,000 foreign students in Canada, with Indians numbering 217,410 as of December 31, 2021.

Canada is steadily becoming a popular destination among Indians looking to migrate abroad, for studying or work. According to a study by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), the number of Indians who became permanent residents of Canada increased by 115% in the last four to five years.

In fact, NFAP data shows that America is no longer the dream destination for most Indians, Canada is taking its place. The number of Indian students doing post-graduation in science and engineering studies at US universities declined by nearly 40% between the 2016-17 and 2019-20 academic years, while it increased by nearly 182% in Canada between 2016 and 2019.

In Canada, it is easier for international students to obtain temporary visas and permanent residence after graduating than it is in the United States. Canada’s post-graduation work permit (PGWP) is commonly seen as the first major step towards obtaining permanent resident status.

Open Work Permit is another immigration pathway that lets one go to Canada without a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or an offer letter from an employer who has paid the compliance fee. The permit allows one to work for any organisation in Canada as long as it has not been marked ineligible by the government.

Canada’s acute labour shortage became a serious concern during the pandemic after which it announced major plans to overcome the problem by setting a target of admitting more than 1.3 million immigrants over three years.

FIA – Chicago Celebrates Indian Heritage Night

The Indian American community organization Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) of Chicago, celebrated Indian Heritage Night for the 5th consecutive year, at the Now Arena (previously Sears Center) where the Windy City Bulls – the official NBA G League affiliates of the Chicago Bulls, took on the College Park Skyhawks.

 

FIA Chicago is a 501 (c)(3) status, non-profit umbrella organization of other Indian Associations in the Chicago land and Midwest representing in excess of 300,000 culturally diverse but united together Asian-Indians. FIA has been actively engaged in serving the Indian American community for the past 12 years and has been instrumental in promoting Indian culture.

 

The Indian Heritage Night celebrations began, as the Chairman & Founder President of FIA Sunil Shah, along with wife Rita Shah, President Hitesh Gandhi, and Founder & Past President Onkar Singh Sangha, Exe. VP Vinita Gulabani, General Secretary Richa Chand & Cultural Secretary Pika Munshi, representing Team FIA and all Indian diaspora, proudly stood on the court holding the Indian Tricolor and the tricolor was also projected on the huge NOW arena monitors during the beautiful rendition of the Indian National Anthem by Ananya Ghosh. Immediately followed by it, the American National anthem, was sung by Nitya Nair. It was a very special experience for all. The spirited crowd cheered for both India & USA. Longlive India! Longlive USA!!

 

A Certificate of Appreciation was presented Brad Seymore, President, Windy City Bulls, to Team FIA – Chicago for their participation and celebrating five years of Indian Heritage Night. The honor was received by Sunil Shah, Rita Shah, Hitesh Gandhi, Onkar Sangha, Neil Khot, Vinita Gulabani, Altaf Bukhari, Richa Chand on behalf of Team FIA. When asked, Chairman Shah said, “We promote & motivate our youth to participate & perform during the Bulls games.”  President Gandhi added, “ We strive for a culture, rich & diverse, and this is one of the ways we can do it.”

 

Besides a very exciting basketball game between the competing teams, the highlight of the evening was the exquisite dance performances, by Chicago Dance Varsity Group led by Puja Joshi, showcasing the Indian Dance forms, during the pregame and quarter breaks that enthralled the audience.

 

The Pregame Dance performance by Dancing Divas & Little Angels group on Bollywood Instrumental followed by freestyle Bollywood Dance stole everyone’s heart. ( Performers: Anyraa Singh, Alak Shukla, Aamukta Chilukuri, Avika Patni, Sahasrika Moganti, Sataakshi Joshi, Shreeja Sonavane, Aaliya Khanum Mohammed, Hiral Shah, Pooja Giroh, Ruchi Sharma).

 

During the quarter breaks, there was a sensational Garbha folk dance by Magic Feet group ( Performers: Mahi Jain, Agalya Saminathan, Suriya Soni, Ridhima Singh, Apurva Vinodkumar, Riva Rithesh, Ahana Charanpahari ) There was also a beautiful Indian fusion dance performance by the Dancing Diamonds group. (Performers: Anika Sharma,  Samiksha Joshi, Saanvi Gubba, Niyati Parashar, Urvi Chirapu, Charisma ) Team FIA presented a Certificate of Appreciation to all the performers. The program coordinators were Richa Chand (FIA -Chicago) & Logan Robben (Windy City Bulls). Other FIA members who attended and supported the event were Abir Maru, Neelam Jai, Harry Sidhu, Pratik Deshpande, Vibha Rajput, Dr Afroz Hafeez, Subbu Iyyer, Julie Thakkar, Hemendra Shah, Peenal Shah, Chandni Kalra, Kavita Rawla, Aparna Khot, Chandini Duvuri, Deepa Sharma, Dr Ramesh Nair, Manoj Rathod and Suresh Bodiwala and their friends and families.

 

Also enjoyable was a fun zone with Windy City Bulls obstacle course and basketball hoops, one of the main attractions in the arena. Gus T, Live mascot of Bulls entertained the cheering crowds. The “Catch the T-shirt” act further energized the attendees.

 

Last but not the least, FIA greatly appreciates its sponsors and supporters. FIA Media coverage by: Suresh Bodiwala & Subhash Mantri, Asian Media.

First Post-Covid Convention With Fashion Show, Dandiya Night, Rajasthani Dance, Celebration of International Day of Yoga on Riverwalk, To Make AAPI’s 40th Convention In San Antonio Unique

“Bienvenidos a San Antonio, Tejas!” Dr. Jayesh Shah, Convention Chair and past President of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) welcomes the over 1,000 AAPI delegates in Texan style. “It is with great pleasure that I, along with the San Antonio -2022 Convention Team, welcome you to the 40th AAPI Annual Convention in San Antonio, one of the top 8th largest cities in the US, with a population of 1.3 million. I still have vivid memories of inviting you to San Antonio in 2014. This is going to be the 4th convention in Texas.”

Describing that the Convention is unique in many ways, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI said, “This is going to be the first AAPI convention post-Covid Pandemic (Optimistic view from my vantage point). All of you are aware of the challenges of doing a Convention during Covid Times. But our convention team is working very hard to make sure that event is enjoyable and safe at the same time. The registration is happening as per expected. Alumni and specialty groups are encouraged to come. Besides cutting-edge CME by outstanding speakers, there are various non-CME lectures. Enjoy Tex-Mex and Indian Cuisine.”

“The Convention this year is one day short. It begins on Thursday, June 23rd with the Texas Style boots and belts with TexMex Theme,” informed Venky Adivi, Chief Executive Officer. “Please get your Sombrero (Mexican Hat) ready for a special evening organized by Texas Indo- American Physician Society (SW Chapter),” said Dr. Vijay Koli, Advisor to the Convention.

Dr. Kiran Cheraku, Co-Chair of the Convention says, “On Friday, a popular Fashion Show, Bollywood Dandiya Night, and colorful Rajasthani dance is awaiting you.”  “On Saturday with the Celebration of International Day of Yoga on Riverwalk, imagine 100’s people doing Yoga all around the Riverwalk,” pointed out Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy, Advisor for the Convention.

According to Dr. Rajeev Suri, President, TIPS SW, and Convention Co-Chair, “Saturday Evening will begin with the Presidential Banquet, which will be followed by a live show by Bollywood’s one of the best “Shan” Night. Sunday, we bid you “Hasta la Vista” with a closing ceremony.”

Dr. Shankar Sanka, Co-Chair stated: “The 2022 exhibit hall C is the vibrant nerve center of the convention. The unique layout offers maximum exposure to the pharmaceutical and commercial booth.” Dr. Aruna Venkatesh, Treasurer of the Convention added: “The exhibition stage will have the performance to keep our audience in the exhibit hall to keep our booth supporters happy. The research pavilion will enable you to view the outstanding works of our students, residents, and fellows.”

Dr. Hetal Nayak stated, ‘The most unique part of the convention is our Yoga-based Wellness Package which is thoughtfully created with world-renowned speakers. This will be equally valuable for an advanced practitioner of yoga as well as a novice!!. This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the theme of “Heal the Healers,” Convention Committee noted.

“Our speakers are some of the best names in Wellness and Yoga- Dr. Akil Taher, Eddie Stern, Dr. Kaushik Reddy, Dr.Ajeya Joshi, Yog Guru Sharath Jois, Drs. P Vij & P. Dedhia, Sadhvi Saraswati, Dr, Smita Mehta, Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa. And do not miss the world-famous yoga workshop by Yog Guru Sharath Jois,” said Dr. KIRAN CHERUKU, Convention Co-Chair.

The confirmed Plenary Speakers are Dr. Jack Reseneck, AMA President, and Dr.Peter Hotez, Nobel Prize Nominee. Other confirmed guests are legendary Sunil Gavaskar and Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director, National Drug Control Policy, World-renowned spiritual leader Sadhvi Saraswati and Dr. Prem Reddy, CEO of Prime Health Services.

“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to my Co-chairs, Kiran Cheraku, Shankar Shanka, Rajeev Suri, and Hetal Nayak, and unwavering administrative support from Venky Adivi, Convention CEO, Reddy Yelaru, and Ram Joolukuntla, Convention COO and Vijaya Kodali in AAPI office. My admiration and thanks to Anupama Gotimukula whose vision, engagement, and enthusiasm kept the team going. It was indeed a team effort by many more, to all, my heartfelt gratitude,” added Dr. Jayesh Shah.

“Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country and internationally will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and encourage legislative priorities in the coming year. We look forward to seeing you in San Antonio!” said Dr. Gotimukula. For more details, and sponsorship opportunities, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org  and www.aapiusa.org

Gupta-Klinsky India Institute At Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University’s India Institute has been renamed to honor a transformational gift.

Noted businessmen and philanthropists Raj Gupta and Steven Klinsky made a joint $10 million gift to the multidisciplinary India Institute at Johns Hopkins University. Thus, the Institute will be renamed as The Gupta-Klinsky India Institute at Johns Hopkins University, or GKII. The purpose of GKII is to “mobilize Hopkins faculty, staff, students, and alumni in their research and partnership with government, academia, the private sector, and NGOs across India to advance human knowledge and develop bold, world-changing ideas.”

Indiaspora member Raj Subramaniam will be replacing FedEx founder Fred Smith as the company’s new CEO. Currently, Raj is the President and COO of FedEx. He will assume his new role as the CEO after Fred Smith steps down on June 1. According to the company, Raj will serve as both CEO and president, and Smith will become executive chairman. Smith stated that for the past several years, he recommended to FedEx directors that in the event that he died or was no longer able to continue as CEO, Subramanian should be named CEO. Raj is an Indiaspora Benefactor member.

The Gupta-Klinsky India Institute at Johns Hopkins University! Housed within the University’s Office of the Provost, GKII brings together the Johns Hopkins community – faculty, staff, students, and alumni – and a diverse range of Indian partners to improve society in India and beyond through research, education, policy, and practice.

According to statement by the duo on the website, “Our faculty comprise experts in medicine, public health, education, arts & humanities, business, economics, public policy, engineering, data science, and artificial intelligence.” And they went ton to add: “We work with India’s experts across government, academia, civil society, and the private sector to advance human knowledge and develop bold, world-changing ideas. Our current efforts are rooted in a rich history of impactful collaborations with Indian partners that’s nearly century old.”

Biden Nominates Kalpana Kotagal, Vinay Singh To Key Posts

Kalpana Kotagal, the daughter of immigrants from India, has been nominated by Presdeitn Joe Biden as the nominee for Commissioner on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last week. Vinay Singh, has been nominated for Chief Financial Officer, Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Vinay Singh, a Certified Public Accountant, is currently a Senior Advisor to the Administrator at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), assisting agency teams to deliver organizational efficiencies to better serve our communities’ small businesses. Singh has 25 years of private sector leadership experience with a deep understanding of finance, analytics, and strategy.

Prior to his role at SBA, Singh was a Partner and Chief Operating Officer for the Infrastructure practice at KPMG in India. As a senior member of the executive team, he led several organizational transformation projects, leveraging technology to improve profitability and decision-making. As Lead Partner for the World Bank Group account, he supported global sustainability projects focused on solving urban and rural challenges in housing, water, energy, and economic development.

Previously, Singh served in the Obama-Biden Administration as a Deputy Assistant Secretary (U.S. Field). He played a key role in leading trade and investment policy and promotion efforts to better market conditions for U.S. companies. In his early years as a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Project Management Professional (PMP), Singh helped several companies improve operational and financial performance. He holds an MBA from Widener University.

Kalpana Kotagal is a Partner at Cohen Milstein, a member of the firm’s Civil Rights & Employment practice group, and Co-Chair of the firm’s Hiring and Diversity Committee. She is co-author of the seminal legal template the “Inclusion Rider.” Kotagal is a diversity, equity, and inclusion expert, and represents disenfranchised people in employment and civil rights litigation involving issues related to Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Kotagal was a Harvard Law School Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow and was named an “Employment Law MVP” by Law360 in 2018, recognizing the top five most influential employment lawyers in the United States. Kotagal sits on the Boards of Directors of A Better Balance and Public Justice Foundation. She is co-chair of the Alumni Advisory Board on Equity & Inclusion at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, a member of the American Constitution Society Task Force on #MeToo in the Legal Profession, and serves on the Advisory Board of the People’s Parity Project.

The, Kotagal earned her B.S. and an A.B., with honors, from Stanford University and her J.D., cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Prior to joining Cohen Milstein, Kotagal served as a law clerk to the Honorable Betty Binns Fletcher of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She resides in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband and two sons.

Pakistan Army Chief Bajwa Wants Disputes With India Be Settled Through Dialogue

Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Bajwa on Saturday said that all disputes with India should be settled peacefully through dialogue, saying Islamabad continues to believe in using diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, to keep the “flames of fire away from our region.” Gen. Bajwa said this at the last day of the two-day ‘Islamabad Security Dialogue’ conference that brought together Pakistani and international policy experts to discuss emerging challenges in international security under the theme “Comprehensive Security: Reimagining International Cooperation”.

The Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) said that with one-third of the world in the Gulf region and elsewhere involved in some sort of conflict and war, “it is important that we keep the flames of fire away from our region.”

The Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) said that with one-third of the world in the Gulf region and elsewhere involved in some sort of conflict and war, “it is important that we keep the flames of fire away from our region”.

“Pakistan continues to believe in using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute and is ready to move forward on this front if India agrees to do so,” Gen. Bajwa said.

“Pakistan continues to believe in using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute and is ready to move forward on this front if India agrees to do so,” Gen. Bajwa said.

His proposal for peace with India had a wider meaning as he indirectly suggested to have some sort of trilateral dialogue involving India, Pakistan and China to create an inclusive peace, as he said that apart from the Kashmir dispute, the India-China border dispute is also a matter of great concern for Pakistan and “we want it to be settled quickly through dialogue and diplomacy.” “I believe it is time for the political leadership of the region to rise above their emotional and perceptual biases and break the shackles of history to bring peace and prosperity to almost three billion people of the region,” Gen. Bajwa said.

He, however, said that the adamant behaviour of the Indian leaders was a hurdle.

Bilateral ties with Pakistan deteriorated further after India announced withdrawing the special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two union territories in August, 2019.

India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir “was, is and shall forever” remain an integral part of the country. India has told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.

In Opinion |India can act today to shape tomorrow’s terms of connectivity with Pakistan

Talking about last month’s missile incident, he said that India’s “accidental missile firing” created doubts regarding its ability to handle high-end weapon-systems, which was compounded by its unwillingness to share details with Pakistan.

The missile fired on March 9 fell in the Mian Channu area of Khanewal district and it came to light a day later when the Army shared details of the Indian “high-speed flying object”.

India, in a statement on March 11, termed it an accident.

Gen. Bajwa said it was a matter of “serious concern” and “we expect India to provide evidence to assure Pakistan and the world that their weapons are safe and secure.” “Unlike other incidents involving strategic weapons systems, this is the first time in history that a supersonic cruise missile from one nuclear-armed nation has landed in another,” he said.

He also said that a “peaceful and prosperous West and South Asia is our goal” and Pakistan’s National Security Policy focuses on the promotion of national security cohesion and harmony through the precepts of unity and diversity.

Recognizing that it is the regions and not countries that grow, the COAS said: “We believe that peace and stability in our wider region are prerequisites for achieving shared regional prosperity and development.” “Our doors are open for all our neighbours,” he said.

Gen. Bajwa termed the situation on the Line of Control (LoC) as “satisfactory and fairly peaceful”, saying mercifully no incident had taken place along the LoC in the last year to the relief of the people living on both sides. He said that Pakistan believes in peace and using dialogue for resolving issues.

Artwork By Sraddha Karthik, A High Schooler From Florida To Be Displayed At The US Capitol

In a proud moment for Indian Americans, the artwork of a community student from Florida is all set to be displayed at the US Capitol. Sraddha Karthik, a Grade 11 student from a Tampa high school in Florida, has been declared the winner of the annual Congressional Art Competition at the Tampa Museum of Art where high school students from across Hillsborough County competed for a spot to showcase their work in the US Capitol.

This year, Sraddha Karthik, who came to the United States at the age of one along with her parents from Chennai, bagged the top prize with her graphite drawing “Pensive Gaze” created with intricacy and precision, said a media release issued by Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

Ms Karthik’s self-portrait tackles perception versus reality.”I wanted to see if I could draw myself as I am and not how I think I am,” she said.

She used different shades of graphite to create depth and dimension for her artwork, the release said. Karthik, the statement said, has been drawing since she was 7 years old when her parents registered her for an art class. “I don’t have as much time as I used to before high school, but I do try to fit in art as much as possible because it’s really helpful for me to express myself,” she said.

Art will add depth to MS Karthik’s career in architecture, which she plans to pursue after high school, said the Congresswoman’s office.

This wasn’t Ms Karthik’s first art competition – she’s been competing in the Salvador Dali Museum annual art competition since eighth grade, and her artwork has been chosen to be displayed every year, it noted. “It was a very talented display of art at this year’s event – this honour could have gone to anyone in the competition!” she said of Castor’s art competition.

It’ll be her first visit to Washington, DC, when she goes for her national showcase this summer. Her artwork will then be displayed in the US Capitol for one year alongside winners for congressional art competitions from throughout the country, the media release said.

The Tampa Museum of Art provides an incredible venue for one of the top high school arts competitions in the country. I am grateful to our parents, teachers and especially students who have turned to arts for encouragement and connection as we mend from the pandemic. Reflective artwork has been a prominent theme and I look forward to welcoming Sraddha to Washington, DC, this summer to represent our talented and diverse community,” Castor said.

Did India Ask WHO To ‘Hide’ Its Covid-19 Death Estimates For 10 Years?

The official global total of Covid deaths around the world is far below the real tioll the pandemic has claimed. Everyone agrees the true toll is far greater than what has been officially reported.  A study released last year looked at how much of a disparity there may be in India, one of the epicenters of the pandemic.

The analysis, from the Center for Global Development, a think tank in Washington, D.C., looked at the number of “excess deaths” that occurred in India between January 2020 and June 2021 — in other words, how many more people died during that period than during a similar period of time in 2019 or other recent years.

The study found that between 3.4 and 4.7 million more people died in that pandemic period than would have been predicted. That’s up to 10 times higher than the Indian government’s official death toll of 414,482 at that point of time in the pandemic period in history.

The researchers looked at India in particular because, says study co-author Justin Sandefur, the country was hit so hard by COVID-19. “The second wave in particular led to heart-wrenching stories from friends and colleagues — and a sense that official numbers are not capturing the true scale of that toll.”

Not surprisingly, a technical advisory group (TAG) of the World Health Organization (WHO) has told Devex, an independent news and development platform that the Indian government asked the global health body to publish its estimates of the country’s pandemic death toll “10 years later.”

According to the TAG report, authored in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, India’s actual Covid-19 death toll is at least four times higher than its official count of over 5.2 lakh. Interestingly, the TAG team includes Dr Anand Krishnan, professor of community medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, apart from two other Indian-origin doctors.

The WHO is expected to publish the report in early April as scheduled as “it would be irresponsible to say let’s wait until the pandemic is over, then we will reflect.” The upward revision, says the WHO’s TAG, is based on a count of both direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic. According to Devex, which quoted a WHO spokesperson, “the excess mortality estimates associated with Covid-19 provide a more comprehensive measure of the impact of the pandemic” since “the direct measure (deaths directly attributable to Covid) provides only a limited, and in many cases problematic measure.”

A spat in the making?
India, which has often bristled at previous independent studies, including by the medical journal Lancet, that have pegged its official Covid-19 death toll as a gross undercount, has hotly contested the WHO’s estimate, with the global health body’s report expected to double the worldwide death toll due to the pandemic from the current 6.14 million.

When counting “excess deaths,” the cause of death is not part of the data set. But during a health crisis like the pandemic, the assumption is that these additional deaths are part of the COVID-19 toll, said Ali Mokdad of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). They reflect not only those who died of the virus but those who might have died, say, of heart disease or diabetes because they were afraid to seek treatment during lockdowns, and those who killed themselves due to pandemic stresses, he added.

India’s official Covid-19 death toll has also come under scrutiny from the Supreme Court while fixing the compensation amount to be paid to next of kin of the deceased as several states have paid the ex-gratia to more number of people than the official death count. That apart, some states have also carried out ‘reconciliation’ exercises between actual and official fatalities.

“Common Prosperity” By President XI A Defining Theme Of Chinese Politics

Introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the beginning of 2021, “common prosperity” has become a defining theme of Chinese politics today, serving to set critical priorities for Beijing across economic, environmental, and social policy, at both the national and local levels. Focused largely on alleviating systemic inequalities, the common prosperity campaign has been described as a transformational new path for China’s development. Despite the central importance of common prosperity to the direction of Chinese policymaking, clarity on the concept remains limited outside of China.

What exactly does common prosperity mean in practice, and what are the intentions and motivations of the political campaign being waged in its name? Where is the campaign headed, and will it be able to accomplish its goals? And, in particular, what will common prosperity mean for international non-profits and philanthropic organizations working in or with China on those areas central to the campaign?

China’s Common Prosperity Program: Causes, Challenges, and Implications,” a new paper by Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) Senior Fellow Guoguang Wu, examines these questions in detail. The paper finds that common prosperity is derived from a complex number of motivations, including reducing pressing inequalities, but also key political goals of interest to the Chinese party-state.

US Govt. Website Helps Locate COVID-19 Tests, Treatments, Vaccines, and Masks

Two years into the pandemic, the Biden Administration has launched a virtual hub to help Americans find COVID-19 prevention and treatment resources—including masks, tests, and vaccines—in their communities.

The website, COVID.gov, consolidates several existing initiatives into what President Joe Biden described during a press briefing on March 30 as a “one-stop shop.” The site includes links for ordering free at-home rapid tests; locating free, high-quality N95 masks; finding vaccines and treatments; and assessing current COVID-19 risk levels in specific counties, based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention metrics.

“The bottom line: no longer will Americans need to scour the internet to find vaccines, treatments, tests, or masks,” Biden said during the briefing. “It’s all there.”

One of the website’s central features is its promotion of Biden’s “test-to-treat” program, which is designed to improve access to antiviral drugs that can reduce the severity of disease for high-risk people. In theory—though not always in practice—the program enables someone who tests positive at a pharmacy or health center to receive treatment on the spot, for free. COVID.gov includes a site locator for facilities taking part in the test-to-treat program, including retail pharmacies, community health centers, and clinics affiliated with Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

COVID.gov is available in English, Spanish, and Simplified Chinese. The same resources are also available in additional languages through the Administration’s telephone hotline at 1-800-232-0233.

While announcing the website’s launch, Biden again implored Congress to authorize extra pandemic funding. A Congressional spending bill passed in March did not include additional money for COVID-19 relief, and the shortfall has forced the Biden Administration to cut back on treatment and vaccine purchases, Biden said. The government has also had to curtail a program that reimburses providers who test or treat people without insurance, meaning some uninsured people now have to pay out-of-pocket for COVID-19 tests. Barring extra funding, the same will soon be true of some fees associated with getting COVID-19 vaccines.

Biden warned during the press briefing that supplies of COVID-19 drugs, vaccines, and tests may run out in the coming months without more money. “We’re already seeing the consequences of Congressional inaction,” he said. “This isn’t partisan; it’s medicine.”

After his remarks, Biden received a fourth COVID-19 vaccine, just a day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized second mRNA boosters for adults ages 50 and older and certain immunocompromised individuals. “It didn’t hurt a bit,” he said.

Dr. Mathew Joys Wins Manayil Jacob Memorial Award

The Poetry Award in memory of the late poet Manayil Jacob was presented to Dr. Mathew Joys, Las Vegas. His short poem, “The mourning of a Mother Deer” (maanin maathrurodanam), was selected by a reputed five-member judging panel for the award. The specialty of this poem is that it is an Acrostic composition ( a poem in which the first letter of each line is the same).

The award consists of a plaque and a cash award sponsored by the Manayil Jacob family to commemorate the tribute to a great poet who passed away last year. Dr. Mathew Joys is the first winner of this prestigious award, awarded for the first time by Kerala Literary Society, Dallas, the oldest Malayalam Literary Association in the American continent, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Dr. Matthew Joys is also a columnist in English and Malayalam newspapers and other periodicals. He has been writing articles on current topics, light poems, stories, and published books of his collections. His interpretation of the “Song of Songs in the Bible” named “Oh my Beloved” and collection of his selected works called “Amerikkan Aadukal “ (The American Goats) are popularly applauded by the Pravasi Literary Writers. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Indo-American Press Club and Executive Editor of the JaihindVartha, Editor of United News Network, and Express Herald.

Writer, filmmaker, and actor Thampi Antony presented the award and presented the award at a ceremony in Dallas organized by the Kerala Literacy Society. He opined that the characters should be seen and enjoyed as fantasies and that realizing them and filling the mind with competition would lead to social destruction. P.P. Cherian, a journalist and writer received the award for the winner.

The Manayil Poetry Award is sponsored by Manayil family member Rajan Chittar who said that the award would be given every year through a poetry competition. Renowned Writers Abraham Thekkemuri, Jose Ochalil, C.V.George, Josen George, Rosamma George, Santosh Pillai, Sarah Teacher, Meena Nebu, and Usha Rajendran were also present at the magnificent event.

The fourth souvenir by Kerala Literary Society, “Petals” was released at the ceremony. The book is over 150 pages and is rich with poems, stories, and essays by more than 20 expatriate writers. Former Secretary Haridas Thankappan welcomed the gathering. Siju V George presided over the function, and Anashwaran Mampilly Expressed a vote of thanks to all the guests and the Award winner. Shaji Mathew and Meenu Elizabeth co-hosted a musical evening featured by Dallas Melodies’ troop.

Air New Zealand Introduces East Coast’s First Nonstop Auckland Flight

Air New Zealand is launching the first-ever nonstop flight from New York to Auckland.

Flights will begin operating out of New York JFK on September 17, flying year-round into Auckland International Airport three times per week on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner jet. Additionally, Air New Zealand is bestowing special flight numbers on the momentous route: The southbound leg will be dubbed NZ 1, while northbound flights will be referred to as NZ 2.

“Traditionally, flight numbers 1 and 2 are used for an airline’s flagship route. And that’s what New York will be—our flagship route,” Greg Foran, CEO of Air New Zealand, said in a statement. “We’ve worked incredibly hard over the past few years to make this ultra-long-haul service a reality–it’s one of the longest routes in the world.”

In fact, the southbound leg of the historic new route will become the fourth-longest flight in the world, with a flight time clocking in at 17 hours and 35 minutes. The route will also be the first-ever nonstop from the East Coast of the U.S. to the South Pacific.

On board, the airline’s Dreamliners will be outfitted with plenty of premium seats to keep passengers comfortable for the duration of the ultra-long flight, with 27 seats in business class, 33 in premium economy, and 215 in economy class. Notably, the plane will also feature 13 of the airline’s famous Sky Couch product, which is essentially a row of economy seats combined into one fare so fliers can stretch out mid-flight.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, New Zealand has been largely sealed off to most travelers, with its airlines operating few—if any—international flights. Government officials recently announced the nation’s borders would reopen on May 1 to vaccinated visitors from visa-waiver countries, including the U.S.

In 2019, the airline had announced plans to launch a similar nonstop route from New Jersey’s Newark airport to Auckland, but that launch was derailed by the pandemic. “The U.S. has always been a key market for us, and this new route cements our commitment to growing opportunities for tourism between the two countries,” Foran said. “In the six years leading up to COVID, the U.S. visitor numbers to New Zealand doubled, so we expect our much-awaited non-stop service to be incredibly strong year-round.”

Americans looking to hop on one of the new flights this year should book as soon as possible: Air New Zealand executives have said that flights have been selling out almost as quickly as they’ve been adding them, with the airline’s first international flights added in earlier February between Australia and New Zealand booking up in a matter of days.

“This is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world,” Foran said. “We’ve been keeping all the best spots and hidden gems warm for our visitors while they’ve been gone and now, we’re ready to show them what they’ve been missing.”

New Device Helps Sperm to ‘Go Against the Flow’ Benefitting Those With Infertility

Newswise — The female genital tract can be a hostile environment for conception. Out of about 100 million sperm, only a few hundred make it to the fallopian tubes. Guided by a directional movement called rheotaxis, sperm cells swim against the cervical mucus flow to reach the egg for fertilization. This journey, however, is even more critical when considering infertility. Sperm motility – the ability to swim the right way – is key.

By taking advantage of this natural rheotaxis behavior of sperm, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science have developed a microfluidic chip for sperm sorting that is fast, inexpensive, easy to operate and efficiently isolates healthy sperm directly from semen. Importantly, it effortlessly collects sorted sperm cells from the collecting chamber while minimizing contamination by deformed or dead sperm cells.

Assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination and intracytoplasmic sperm injection all require healthy sperm cells for a successful outcome. Current centrifugation methods for sperm sorting require multiple steps, multiple types of equipment and take about two hours to isolate sperm cells. These methods damage sperm during processing and induce significant DNA fragmentation and oxidative stress.

Results of the study, published in the journal Analyst of the Royal Society of Chemistry, showed that sperm cells isolated from the collecting chamber in this microfluidic chip exhibited significantly higher motility (almost 100 percent), a higher number of morphologically normal cells and substantially lower DNA fragmentation, which is a crucial parameter for the fertilization process. In addition, the developed chip provides more than enough cells required for a successful intracytoplasmic sperm injection due to the amount and quality of sperm cells isolated using the chip.

“Operating our chip is very easy. Once the semen is loaded into the sample inlet chamber, the competent sperm cells start moving against the fluid flow toward the collecting chamber from where they can easily be collected,” said Waseem Asghar, Ph.D., senior author, an associate professor in FAU’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a member of the FAU Institute for Human Health and Disease Intervention (I-Health) and FAU Institute for

Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE). “Furthermore, this chip offers a one-step, one-hour operational benefit, which an operator can use with minimal training.”

The study also validates that rheotaxis selects the healthy, motile, and higher velocity sperm cells for the fertilization process.

“The assembly of the microfluidic chip is low-cost, and the reagents used in the chip to separate sperm cells are only a few milliliters, therefore, the commercial cost of the chip would be less than $5,” said Asghar. “Moreover, this technology will considerably reduce the economic burden of fertility implementations and both the chip and the sperm cells isolated from it offer great clinical significance and applicability.”

The microfluidic chip consists of four cylindrical chambers that are connected through the microchannels. The four chambers are the fluid inlet chamber, collecting chamber, sample inlet chamber, and waste collection chamber. The channel between the collecting chamber and sample inlet contains microgrooves to guide the sperm cells in addition to the fluid flow for the rheotaxis movement of the sperm cells towards the collecting chamber.

The shear stress inside the device is generated by fluid flow using a syringe pump. A raw semen sample is then added to the sample inlet chamber from where functional sperm cells will swim towards the collecting chamber, effectively separating themselves from dead and immotile sperm.

“Conventional centrifugation often compromises the integrity of sperm cells. This research study demonstrates that the microfluidic chip developed by professor Asghar and his colleagues eliminates this issue,” said Stella Batalama, Ph.D., dean, College of Engineering and Computer Science. “This novel technology offers a platform where the sperm cells experience different shear stress in different parts of the chip, which facilitates the isolation of competent sperm cells without impacting their integrity.”

In the United States, an estimated 15 percent of couples have trouble conceiving. Globally, approximately 48.5 million couples experience infertility. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 percent of women of childbearing age have used an infertility service. All treatment costs for infertility can range from $5,000 to $73,000. The average patient goes through two IVF cycles, bringing the total cost of this procedure, including medications, between $40,000 and $60,000. An estimated 85 percent of IVF costs are often paid out-of- pocket.

Study co-authors are Sandhya Sharma and Md. Alam Kabir, Ph.D. candidates in the Asghar Laboratory, Micro and Nanotechnology in Medicine, FAU Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The FAU College of Engineering and Computer Science is internationally recognized for cutting edge research and education in the areas of computer science and artificial intelligence (AI), computer engineering, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, civil, environmental and geomatics engineering, mechanical engineering, and ocean engineering.